In my neighborhood, there is no need to turn on the news to find out what’s going on with the weather. One hundred degree heat, and visibility of ¾ mile due to smoke and airborne particulate matter make for interesting moonrises. Southwestern Oregon is circled with wildland fires along with a huge portion of the rest of the state.
And then there’s Hurricane Harvey. Houston, Texas, is still reeling from 130 mile-per-hour winds bringing destruction, power outages and flooding not seen in anyone’s memory. This storm has, so far, earned two presidential visits and a host of organizations and thousands of private volunteers. The “Cajun Navy” has risen to the occasion with a miles-long procession of pickups pulling boats into the region to help evacuate people to safety.
Every disaster, whether forest fire or hurricane, draws its share of news trucks, TV cameras and (sometimes pesky) news hounds trying for the perfect camera angle or profound sound byte. While most news organizations manage to cover the story in some fashion, it’s the untold stories that fascinate me. There are heroes whose pictures and stories are posted all over the newscast, and there are heroes who nobody ever hears about.
One fellow I spoke with has hauled nearly 10,000 pounds of livestock feed to supply animals evacuated from a wildland fire. Hundreds of animals were sheltered in a nearby county fairgrounds facility. Others have hauled thousands of bottles of water to keep the firefighters hydrated, while still others have brought in donated travel trailers and fifth wheel trailers for displaced folks to have a place to lay their head.
Stories of generosity and heroism continue to leak out in spite of no major media on the scene. It’s those stories that continue to reinforce my faith in humankind.
I have always advocated that the most effective thing you can do to prepare for a disaster is to inventory your neighborhood. “Mapping Your Neighborhood” consists of bringing your neighbors together and learning who lives in your immediate area. Find out if your neighbors have skills that are useful in the event of a major disaster. Who has medical training, who is experienced in dealing with folks who have been traumatized: How about a counselor or minister or teacher who can manage children? Is there someone who can play a guitar or piano? How about someone who owns a backhoe, or generator or can operate a chainsaw? How about someone skilled in carpentry or plumbing? All these things are useful when the phones don’t work and the usual first responders are tied up with someone else’s emergency. This system makes you a first responder for your neighbor and vice versa. If this interests you, simply do an internet search for “Mapping Your Neighborhood” and get started. There is no cost involved, all it takes is one person willing to assume the role of leader/facilitator.
As always send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers