Hurricane season begins in just over three weeks, yet last Saturday — just six days ago — Houston and many other areas across the country set record low temperatures. It doesn’t exactly feel like May, let alone hurricane season. It reminds me of the second and third week of December when everybody’s walking around saying, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas.” It sure doesn’t feel like hurricane season, either. Yet we all know it’s coming.
The ImpactWeather tropical season forecast is suggesting a busy year and one more active than typical. What’s key however, is that steering currents are expected to drive more storms to the U.S. coastline, from the Mid-Atlantic southward, as well as into the Gulf of Mexico. Corollaries to previous active seasons with similar characteristics also point to an active season with a higher number of landfalling storms. So it may not feel like hurricane season but hurricane season is on the way. No matter. The real question is, are you ready for hurricane season?
With just a few weeks to go, there’s still plenty of time to make preparations. My last few posts to YourWeatherBlog have been about this very subject but if I don’t write about it now, when should I? I can tell you this: According to the American Red Cross, 93% of Americans haven’t taken the most basic steps toward preparedness. Amazing. What’s more, a 2009 survey reveals that 29% of Americans have not prepared because they think emergency responders will help them while 60% plan to rely on those emergency responders during the first 72 hours following a disaster. I have one word for these people: Katrina. Who can forget the lack of immediate response to the city of New Orleans?
It’s taken a long time for people to buckle up in a car without thinking about it. It’s taken a long time for people to get the message that smoking cigarettes kills. It’s taken a long time for people to learn that disposing of motor oil down the storm drain has tragic consequences. With time, we can accomplish great things and create new paradigms. Yet the 2009 survey I mentioned above was completed four long years after Hurricane Katrina and we only have to look back to last October to see how vastly unprepared thousands of people were in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. How is it possible that so many of us remain unprepared?
Let’s understand that immediate response is not what FEMA is about. It will take time for the emergency management organization to gather supplies and personnel to respond to a crisis. They may even have to cut a path through debris to reach your front door — and that’s not going to happen any time soon. In fact, FEMA’s own guidelines tell us that we should be self-sufficient for a minimum of three days. This means you need food, water, power (optional, but very helpful) and a plan that will let you survive without assistance for 72 hours. Yet the survey reveals that not only are we unprepared, we’re relying on immediate assistance from the organization that is telling us we need to rely on ourselves in the hours and days following a disaster. This is a recipe that will lead to disappointment, wasted effort, anger, failure and likely even death.
If you prefer to do your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, or only go to the dentist when your teeth hurt, then you’re probably going to wait until the wind starts blowing and evacuation routes begin flooding before you think about preparedness. For the rest of us, the time for preparation is now.
I’ve written about preparedness and emergency supplies before. You can can search YourWeatherBlog using key word tags at the top of the column to the right, or visit a couple of those articles here and here.