Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Developing a Disaster Plan

Another item on our national health agenda that is very important is…HOW DO WE COPE WITH A DISASTER? Having a SPECIFIC, CONCRETE DISASTER PLAN IS VITAL. It should start with a mobilization of personnel. If you mobilize everybody according to their strengths and expertise in specific areas, beginning with professionals, it would make for less waste of time, energy, and human power.

I used to be Director of Volunteers at a hospital where I was in charge of utilizing the HOSPITAL VOLUNTEERS for DISASTER PLANNING. I lectured to them on the concepts they should be aware of.

The number one item in disaster planning is to have neighbors living side by side get to know one another. Someone savvy about identifying and utilizing the strengths of each individual should be in charge of this endeavor. For example, a nurse in cardiac care, a health ecologist who puts emphasis on the environment, and a fire chief all living on the same street in a dire situation could make the difference between life and catastrophe.

Who are the people around you? What can they do in an emergency to help out the community? Make a list for your street. Who lives on it, and what is their specialty? What could you do?

This project could be called HOME PRESERVATION TEAMS.

I had a first hand encounter with a potential disaster when all the electricity went out on the grid of Northeastern America in the summer of 2004. I had just gotten off a plane when it was brought to my attention what had happened. I thought to myself, what could I do to help the people in this airport? A few things came to mind.

First, there was no one in central command. There were a group of stewardesses and pilots sitting around, laughing and talking. They didn’t see it as their responsibility to help these people. There was no one looking after the children and the elders. These people should come first because they can’t fend as well for themselves.

Secondly, the food supply was not well advertised. I went and got food, and there were some restaurants that had a lot of food and some that had nothing. I got more than I needed just to play it safe, but they should have had a disaster plan in the airport. If someone needs food, where can they get it? They should put a sign up that says food here, and it should be food that is not perishable.

Thirdly, there was a communication issue. Some people had cell phones while some people did not. How do they contact their loved ones? When I found a telephone, I called my nephew in Detroit and told him that I was stuck in the airport. At least then I had someone who knew where I was.

Fourthly, where do people stay? After this disaster the hotel in the airport put a sign up saying they were booked. They should have used extra furniture for passengers to sit on in the airport. For example, the seats are constricted to one per person; they should have had the foresight to create a pullout so people could recline with legs in the air. Also, toilets could not be flushed because of the problem of having no electricity. One could also not use the faucets because they were all run electrically. This is real shortsightedness.

I observed this for a while, and then decided that I had to get out of here. I saw all these people lined up to get out and find a cab. The line seemed like three miles long, but I had to go to the back of the line. I thought to myself, I must get out of here. I started singing and made my way up to the head of the line. When I got to the head of the line I could see what was going on. There was no order there of how to dispense all of these people.


Then I saw a limo with three people in it pull up. I asked where they were going, and they said they were going to Detroit. Luckily, they let me ride with them and I ended up finding a way out of the airport.

All these things that went wrong should be addressed before a time of disaster. The most important thing is to know the skills of the people around you.

The government pays disaster experts to come to conclusions, but they never come to any practical conclusions about our welfare. Big institutions that impact on peoples’ lives, like an airport or a cruise ship, should develop their own disaster protocol.

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