Why Aren’t We Prepared?

I was out with my wife earlier today and we were both saying it’s hard to believe next week is Thanksgiving.  Before you know it, we’ll be welcoming in the New Year.

This past weekend I participated in a joint exercise between a couple of local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and my Search and Rescue (SAR) team.  If you want to see more about the exercise and you are on Facebook, take a look at the Eureka Fire Protection District’s Search and Rescue Team Facebook page.

The exercise was very unique in that the venue for the exercise was an urban neighborhood in Maplewood, Missouri that will soon be leveled to make room for a business development.  Over 20 single family homes, a few duplexes, and a two-story three-building apartment complex was our playground.  Overall, the exercise was very well received by everyone that participated.  And, everyone walked away saying they learned something and would want to do this again.

But here’s the thing … we only had about 30 CERT people and about 20 SAR people.  Fifty people … that’s it!  As we were planning the exercise, invitations went out to all CERT teams in the St. Louis metropolitan region.  We thought that with the tornadoes that hit the area last New Year’s Eve and again in April along with the devastating Joplin tornado we would have a lot of participation, but not so.  And this situation isn’t unique to St. Louis either.

I continue to hear reports locally, and from across the country, that many programs are struggling to recruit new CERT participants as well as keeping their existing (trained) ones active.  Now to be fair, CERT is a 20-hour program that teaches individuals how to prepare.  It started in communities but has grown to include schools, places of worship, and corporations.  It isn’t a program that is used to create a volunteer workforce.  But, if you don’t practice what you’ve learned, you’ll soon forget it.  So why don’t we take preparedness seriously today?  And the “we” refers to each of us as individuals, communities, businesses, places of worship, etc.   We are all guilty.

It would be easy to blame it on the lack of funding at the federal, state, and local levels.  This is partially true.  Look at our economy today.  It would also be easy to say, we don’t have time, or I’m too busy.  Heck, we are all TOO busy!   It’s also partially true that many of our government and business leaders don’t seem to place a high priority on citizen or employee preparedness.  All true.  But in the end, it comes down to taking responsibility for ourselves.

Several years ago, I found a terrific article written by Paul Purcell titled “The “Disaster Dozen” Top Twelve Myths of Disaster Preparedness”.  I still reference this article often when I speak at conferences or in classes that I teach.  I think the myths Paul brought up in his article are still valid today as they were six years ago.  Here are the 12 Myths:

  1. “If something happens all I have to do is call 911.”
  2. “All I need is a 72-hour kit with a flashlight, first aid kit, some food and water, and a radio.”
  3. “My insurance policy will take care of everything.”
  4. “Good preparedness is too expensive and too complicated.”
  5. “We can only form a Neighborhood Watch group through FEMA, the Red Cross, or local Law Enforcement.”
  6. “In a ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ terrorist attack, we’re all dead anyway.”
  7. “Nothing like that could ever happen here.”
  8. “All I have to worry about is my own family.”
  9. “If preparedness were really important it would be taught in school.”
  10. “I can get free preparedness information on the Internet.”
  11. “Full preparedness means I have to get a lot of guns and be a ‘Survivalist.”
  12. “If something really bad happens, NO one will help.”

Of course, each one of these is a myth.  I encourage you to look on-line for the full article Paul wrote and read it completely.  It won’t take very long.  Then, plan to take a preparedness class in your community.  And, if one isn’t offered, find a way to develop one and make it available to others.  Encourage your friends and family to do the same.  Become better prepared.

Till next month, be safe.  Happy Thanksgiving!

TIP:   “How to avoid — or recover from — Thanksgiving disasters” 

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