Saturday, May 15, 2010


I was zooming along 47 yesterday when I heard a very bizarre radio spot created by FEMA/The Ad Council, about being prepared for disasters. It had looming, frightening, movie music in the background, and a very serious young woman voicing-over an undefined threat.

What was the threat? There was no clue, except the music led me to believe that it could have been one of these: nuclear apocalypse; sun going into supernova (yes, I know this is scientifically inaccurate); giant meteor headed for earth; large scale terrorist biochemical attack; plants releasing spores that create mass suicides; zombie invasion. Now, the parting words were, quite seriously, "make a kit; have a plan." Now, I know there are zombie-invasion kits on the market, but there is no kit and no plan that will help you in a nuclear apocalypse. Just sayin.'

I suppose FEMA was really suggesting more of a major flood or earthquake scenario--but I still don't see a kit and a plan as helping much. Maybe if they were to eliminate the looming music, and say, "get the hell out of town when the authorities say 'evacuate,'" and then suggest that you stay calm and assist health care professionals in a Superdome-style event, that might make sense. I still think that no kit and plan is going to help you if a building collapses on your family. You have to wait for the rescue people to do their jobs.

I was in the Loma Prieta earthquake in '89, and I'm sorry to say that a kit and a plan would not have helped the people on the Bay Bridge. After Loma Prieta, my school asked for backpacks of non-perishable food and drink, for each of us. But where were the bags stored? Would we have had access to them?

Now, a kit and a plan might make a lot of sense in a house-fire. But they clearly weren't implying house-fire--they said, "major catastrophe." A kit and a plan for egress for all family members, and a neighboring house to meet makes a lot of sense. You know what else would make sense? A kit and a plan for getting lost at the County Fair. And once you find your family, and leave the County Fair, a kit and a plan for systematically finding your car also strikes me as useful.

I'm not diminishing the idea of staying calm and rational in the event of a major emergency (ie. a flood). But let's not assume that 15 minutes of planning now will help you much in a catastrophe. That house you were planning to meet at? Washed away. That cell phone? Batteries dead. Sometimes the best things you can do are to follow directions when they are given, do your best to help the people immediately around you, and hope everyone else is doing the same.


Mike said...

The whole purpose of emergency preparedness is to be PREPARED, that means for anything. It's obvious that leaving town when the authorities advise will ultimately be more effective than any kit you can buy however, at last check, the authorities have about three reliable SECONDS in which to evacuate for an earthquake. Unless everyone can get to their prefueled, grab n' go jet packs in the three seconds before the ground beneath their feet turns to jello then they're going to suffer an earthquake.

These are not tools that can avoid or even prevent an emergency, they are not weather control machines or seismic force fields. They are quite simply here to prevent any further suffering that occurs when you are caught with your pants down in a disaster. There comes a point when you have to ask yourself, Could I ever be in a disaster? and Would I like to have enough food to prevent starving to death? or Do I really trust FEMA to evacuate my family in a timely manner? Needless to say, one would probably find a couple band aides to be of use.

Miriam said...

Yes Mike, I understand that--but did you hear the commercial? I feel like it was needless fear-mongering. I said I'm not opposed to the idea, but I have a hard time envisioning that anything you prepare now is going to help you very much in a major catastrophe. I'm not denying that I could be in an emergency, only that one can't be prepared for everything all the time--and even more than that, what's the likelihood that you're going to have all the right stuff with you at any given time? It seems to me that if you say, "well, I have my flares, bottled-water, cell-phone, swiss-army-knife and spam, and I'm all set," it's the height of arrogance. This isn't McGuyver.

Also, I'm curious as to why you responded to me, since no one ever reads this blog, at least as far as I can tell from the comments. And why you feel so strongly about what I said?