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How Prepared Are You Really for a Natural Disaster or Emergency?

I like being prepared or at least feeling prepared.

I can be meticulous about meetings and presentations, especially if I am the one who is leading it.

I ponder and stew on possibilities, I aim to think of my audience, or stakeholders and I try to anticipate how they take in my information and how they can apply it in a meaningful way.

I care about how I look, and that the technology in the room is working correctly. Conference call numbers are given in advance, I edit Powerpoint and ensure I am able to share the visuals with remote participants. I show up early to test the equipment and if I have five minutes to spare, I use it to take the final breath before I dive in.

Usually things work out, and folks are impressed.

I like being prepared when I travel. I print out everything, and I look up restaurants and shopping wherever I’m headed, ready to make a suggestion when everyone else is tired, hungry and indecisive. I make sure I have necessities that are useful to myself and even to my traveling partners. I’m the one who thinks of poopoori (the toilet spray. I’m the REAL MVP), pain relievers, hand sanitizer, feminine products.

But it didn’t occur to me until recently after seeing so much loss, devastation in areas like Houston, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that when it comes to preparation for emergencies, I really didn’t have a plan. And I knew better. I really did. So much so, as a young reporter, when the rain came down harder and harder and Hurricane Katrina was making her presence known along the Gulf Coast, me and other young reporters were having a meal and telling each other to ignore the pages blowing up our beepers from the office for at least five minutes, before we all answered and headed out to cover it. Little did we know what was coming in the days, weeks and months ahead. Little did we know the privilege we had because we were reporters… more on that later.

The U.S. government has a website called Ready.gov and they show a series of commercials that poke fun at families half-assing emergency drills and preparing by not preparing at all, or considering their conversation about preparation being sufficient.

But as people who the general masses may consider conspiracy theorists gear up for God-knows-what November 4, while I hope things are smooth and no electromagnetic pulses, or Antifa wars uprisings start, it got me to thinking about natural disasters, and also times like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. Even being not far from Baltimore and seeing the curfews put in place during the Baltimore uprising where people are told to stay home, I wondered how long could I stay in my home and what kind of rations would I be able to adequately live off of, or do I have a bag ready in case I needed to make a move quickly.

Back in the day, as a reporter, because you were so busy working the story, I didn’t realize how much my parent company looked out for our basic needs. We were safe and had options even if our homes had damage, or no electricity or running water. The newspaper paid for hotel rooms where we could rest and shower, the newspaper offices had generators, and although we got sick of pizza, there was always food to eat and a dry, safe place to be.

We were provided with gas for our personal cars, and rentals to help us get around to report the news. Our minds were generally clear, our personal security in tact as we poured ourselves into meeting people struggling with the devastation and the unknown and being able to accurately tell their stories and help them get help from the rest of the nation and the world. We’d visit makeshift communities set up by FEMA, emotionally drained by the end of the day, but secure in knowing we had someplace safe to go ourselves, not a shelter with strangers.

But now that I’m a civilian, I realize if something does pop off it’s all on me.

I think there’s a value to making sure everyone keeps basics in their homes and that’s why me and my boyfriend are making an emergency kit.

I realized I’m not Katniss, and shows like the Walking Dead started to come to mind. I wondered if faced with disaster and lack of modern conveniences, how would I fare? It made my heart tighten for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who are still roughing it, thinking of creative ways to survive and take care of their most vulnerable citizens who still need a lot of help. Their new normal is far from the life they are used to. Like those people, when faced with such disaster and uncertainty, they are winging it too and doing what humans are built to do, adjust. I don’t ever want to be in a position to find out.

I don’t think we realize just how fortunate we are and how much we depend on technology to do really basic things. As an 80s baby, I think our generation is the generation who remembered simpler times in an analog world, while we don’t have a problem with technology, we won’t bust a blood vessel if the wi-fi is down… temporarily, of course.

Bear in mind, in the US and in highly developed countries, our dependence on technology and our seemingly inability to function without it, should make us all reevaluate how we think about our needs and wants. I have various friends who have traveled to other countries and everyone comes back saying the same thing, there are healthy, happy people living in places where we would be afraid to lay our heads, thriving and being fulfilled not by stuff and technology, but by human interactions, kindness, ingenuity to make something out of nothing, or out of garbage.

Having clean water is simply a blessing that people don’t take for granted. After studying public health, having a place to use the bathroom without contaminating your entire community is a VERY BIG DEAL. Using fire and making delicious meals for an entire community is not unusual for people living in other parts of the world. Could we do the same, if forced to? Would there be something within us, some instinct that would show us the way?

Sometimes I force myself to carry cash, and the times I’ve been told computers were down, I was relieved I could move to the front of the line, while everyone else scrambled and were literally frozen, or demanding that they try the machines again. And this wasn’t during some kind of disaster. Carrying cash is not like being able to fish, or clean and then cook a fish over a fire, but small steps…. See, doesn’t that sound silly? First-world problems, yall. First world problems.

It makes me think, do I have non-aromatherapy candles? A well-stocked first aid kit? Do I have non-perishable goods, that I’d be willing to eat if necessary? Do I have batteries, and a good supply of water?

I’m not the type of person who likes to dwell on doomsday scenarios, but weather disasters happen. Living in the DC area during 9/11 and being from NY reminds me of the panic of not being able to use a cell phone, and the relief of being able to contact family with landlines.

We live in highly uncertain times, and while I’m not sure if I’d win the Hunger Games our outlast thousands of zombies based on sheer will and learn-as-you-go survival skills, I’d like to give myself and the ones I love a small head start.

So I’ll start with an emergency kit. I hope you do too.

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