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 by Jon Burras
Disaster Un-preparedness
     Your mind is frantic as the fifty-foot flames quickly burn up the hillside towards your home. You have been told to evacuate and grab whatever you can and leave immediately. You are scared for your life, your family, your pets and your neighbors' lives, yet you have a running voice in your head shaming you about what you could have done differently. Why did you buy a home on top of a hilly bluff in the first place? You knew this day might soon be here. Why didn't you have a list prepared of all the important things that you would take if given five minutes to evacuate your home? Why didn't you have extra cash on hand in case you would not be coming back home for a while? Why didn't you spend the extra money and have your hillside planted with low lying green shrubs that would have mitigated the extremely dry chaparral that is now burning?
     This scenario plays out to millions of people each year and very few are prepared for what they inevitably must go through. Whether it is a raging fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, flood, drought, war, city rebellion, protest or any other type of chaos, most people are un-prepared for disaster. Are you prepared for a disaster?
     Wouldn't life be great if nothing bad ever happened. This kind of utopia would be a marvelous way to live. You never had to think about war, famine, flood, drought and there was always enough to eat and everyone got along. Unfortunately that day has not yet arrived and most likely will not arrive any time soon. If we wish to survive going forward it is up to us to adjust to weather patterns, plan for natural disasters and be ready to take on the biggest catastrophes that might occur.
     Why are we in denial? Most people do not want to think about bad things that could happen. The majority of people do not talk about planning for death or preparing for a disaster that might be in their future. They act surprised when it finally does show up. Is this unique to the American culture (the art of denial) or are other countries just as oblivious? Most government officials act the same way. They seem surprised when a disaster strikes and they are not fully prepared for it.
     One country that is much more prepared is Japan. Earthquakes and tsunamis seem like a normal occurrence in Japan and the population receives regular disaster training in order to be prepared. National Disaster Preparation Day occurs every year in Japan where businesses, schools and local municipalities practice for a disaster. Japan is the most prepared country for a disaster with regular training, a tsunami warning system and an earthquake alert system. There are over 10,000 tsunami shelters and billions of dollars have been spent to safeguard the population.
     Another country that seems to be prepared is Switzerland where they have built large underground bunkers that can support their entire population. In the case of a disaster the citizens can enter for months or years where there are hospitals, schools, beds, bathrooms, food storage and food cultivation. These underground cities can sustain a population for quite some time. Most countries are very ill-prepared and will be scrambling around when the time comes.
     The United States always seems to be playing catch up when a disaster strikes. There never seems to be enough people, resources, leadership or money to deal with whatever we are facing. We do not seem to see problems until they hit us squarely in the face and we have to rally from behind.
     For example, in 2017 there were three substantial hurricanes that struck the United States and as of August 2018 many of those areas have still not recovered. In Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico (and other Caribbean territories) the residents were inundated with record winds and rainfall. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) seemed completely out matched and even with military soldiers flown in to help out and the Army Corp of Engineers assisting there was still a paltry effort. Once again, America was seen to be unprepared and playing catch up all along.
     Forest fires have ripped through California in the last few years like never before. There never seems to be enough manpower or equipment to stop these behemoths in their tracks. The government once again seems to be playing catch up and is totally out-manned. While tens of thousands of firefighters are manning hoses and digging trenches we are still losing our battles with Mother Nature.
     We seem to have a national mental illness when it comes to disasters. We pretend that it will never happen to us so we do not plan for it. Some would call this "denial". Others would call it "delusion". Never-the-less, we seem to be unaware and unprepared for disasters occurring. Our disaster fund is always overdrawn each year and Congress must beg the President to sign legislation to grant FEMA more money. States with hurricanes, tornadoes and wild fires routinely beg the President to declare their region a natural disaster so that they might collect federal disaster assistance funds. This mental illness is not just in one region of the country but throughout all fifty states.
     We continually hear officials that claim that global climate change is causing our weather patterns to be more severe, with drier droughts that cause more wild fires, more floods from hurricanes and tropical storms and more severe tornadoes. Yet despite this information we continue to blame the weather rather than adapt to our new reality. If there are drier conditions in the West then spend more money on forest management cutting down dead trees and more money on proven fire fighting technology like water dropping aircraft. In hurricane zones change the building codes where buildings will be able to withstand greater wind speed and do not allow people to build homes in flood zones unless they are five to ten feet off the ground. Mental illness is the fact that we understand that the weather conditions are changing yet we continue to blame the weather for our calamities and refuse to change our lifestyles.
     Much of the fire fighting aircraft are old and obsolete. We know that a fleet of high tech water dropping and flame retardant dropping helicopters and aircraft can be much more efficient in putting out a raging forest fire than thousands of men and women on the ground with a single shovel or fire hose. Yet we do not spend our money to update and increase these resources. In fact, there is a new fire fighting device in a converted commercial 747 aircraft that flies low over a fire and dumps over 19,000 gallons of water or fire retardant on a fire at one time. Why don't we have a fleet of five to ten of these that can fly in one after another and put out a major forest fire in minutes rather than weeks? Stationed at a nearby military base they would be able to be ready to handle fires over large areas.
     The U.S. Forest Service has refused to buy these large and effective aircraft, preferring to issue contracts for aircraft that hold only 3,000-5,000 gallons in them. In other words, the U.S. Forest Service would rather have several horse drawn antique fire carriages show up when your house is on fire instead of spending money on equipment that is efficient and actually does the job. This is the United States government that we are speaking of so it is not a surprise to anyone that this kind of thinking exists. After all, it is these very same people who have been known to purchase $20,000 toilet seats.
     Why aren't there adequate resources that can be stored and flown in to a disaster area on a moments notice? We could have pre-made kitchens made out of shipping containers that are airlifted to a location that has been hit by a hurricane. This way the people who have no food, water or power can have homemade hot food rather than military style C-rations. Thousands of generators and solar powered integrated power systems need to be ready and on hand to be delivered in an instant. We saw in the hurricane aftermath of Puerto Rico that millions of people were without power for months while crews were attempting to fix the beaten and battered electrical grid. People do not just need electrical power for refrigeration and lighting, but for survival needs like medical equipment like oxygen generators and for the sanitation of water delivery and sewage removal.
     We could have thousands of mobile trailers ready and on hand to house people after a large scale emergency. Instead of setting up unsanitary tent cities people could be sleeping in a bed with a shower and a roof over them after a disaster. People's lives could return to as much as normal as possible rather than be disrupted for months or years to come.
     Those living in California have heard about the "Big One" for quite some time. This is referring to the analysis by seismologists that it is only a matter of time before California is hit by a major earthquake where thousand are killed. This could be twenty years from now or next week. It is going to happen. It is only a matter of "when" and not "if". How many people are prepared for such a life changing event? How many people carry emergency supplies in their car or stored at home? Are you still expecting your government to come in and rescue you?
     After most disasters there are several layers of change that happen. First there is the fear and shock to wonder if you will survive the event. Then comes the disbelief that this has happened. Then there is the scurrying around for a plan (i.e. Where do I go? What do I do? ). Next comes bonding with fellow traumatized individuals. Eventually help arrives but it might take days or weeks to get to you. Next is the second planning stage about long-term planning.   Will you ever get over the shock and fear of it all or do you remain paralyzed for the rest of your life?
     Surviving a disaster means being properly prepared for such an event. What if a requirement would be that every individual must take an eight hour emergency survival class every four years in order to renew their driver's license? What if we had local communities divided up into districts where survival courses were taught on a monthly basis? Topics could include things like how to store food long term or how to dress a wound. Disasters happen locally. It is amazing how many people have no provisions stored for an emergency and have no knowledge of what to do in case of an emergency event.
     There are so many ways that prevention can mitigate much of the damage in the case of a disaster. Forest management is one of those ways. Homes must have brush removed from 150 feet away from them. Dead trees and other low lying brush must be removed from forests. For instance, 30% of the forest in California is owned by the state. Forty percent of the forest in California is owned by the federal government. Why are we not creating task forces, either with the military or perhaps the Civilian Conversation Corps, to go in and remove dead trees and brush from our forests?
     Homes can be better prepared for fires as well. There are filters that can be placed in attic vents to prevent burning embers from traveling into your attic, setting your home ablaze. Covering up the eaves is another way that a home can be saved. In most cases a fire burning towards a home will send out enormous amounts of heat that gets trapped beneath a home's eaves setting them on fire. There are construction methods that would prevent this heat from building up. There is also a special foam that a homeowner can purchase that would prevent his house from burning. If a fire was approaching you just spray on the foam and it will create an insulation barrier that prevents the home from catching fire.
     The world as a whole is very unprepared for an extinction level event. A single solar flare or a large asteroid striking Earth is enough to wipe out the entire population, much like the demise of the dinosaurs millions of years ago. A cataclysmic volcanic eruption might create enough ash to block the sun's rays for years to come which would not allow us to grow any food.
     Another important element of disaster recovery is private insurance agencies. Unfortunately many insurers are stingy and do not pay you the entirety of what you have lost. What is needed is an independent third party agency that will value your assets and then the insurance company will have to comply with that number. It is insane to believe that the same insurance company will be the one who tells you the value of your loss and then writes the check for that loss.
     For instance, in many tornados and hurricanes an insurance company will not provide a settlement for your loss, claiming that your home was destroyed by the water surges and not by the wind. We saw in the case of Hurricane Katrina that many policy holders were shut out of a settlement because many insurance companies would make up fabricated stories about whether it was the wind or the rain that actually caused the home damage. An independent third party agency would take this problem away and pay you what you deserve.
     We build our homes in the forest and when they burn down we blame the forest. We build our homes on the ocean and when a tsunami or hurricane destroys them we blame the ocean. We build our homes in tornado alley and when a tornado destroys them we blame the tornado. We build our homes and cities right on top of earthquake faults and when an earthquake destroys them we blame the earth.
     The real problem is that we have lost our relationship with nature as we are in our heads and addicted to technology. The real lesson here is that Mother Nature always wins despite robust attempts by science and technology to try to keep it in check. The fact that we have a mental delusion that we can somehow conquer or control nature is what is really irrational.

Solutions
1. FEMA is inadequately funded. Require all homeowners to pay ten dollars more on their property taxes to fully fund FEMA so that it can adequately take care of regions affected by a disaster.

2. In states like California, raise the gas tax five cents per gallon so that the most up to date firefighting aircraft can be purchased. Double or triple the number of water dropping aircraft to have forest fires extinguished in record times with the fewest lives lost and the least amount of personal property destroyed.

3. Before you can obtain your driver's license renewal every four years you must complete a one day disaster training course. This course includes CPR, how to properly defend against a potential disaster in your area and other important skills.

4. It is mandatory that you have a storm shelter built into your yard if you live in a tornado zone.

5. Homes in flood zones or in hurricane zones must be built off the ground so that they will not be swept away by rising waters. New construction must mandate this and a home that was destroyed by a flood must incorporate the new building codes.

6. In fire areas, you must purchase a special fire retardant foam to be used if a fire is approaching your home. Homes must have attic filters to prevent embers from traveling inside. Eaves on homes in forested areas must be covered.

7. An independent agency formed to evaluate your property damage. Don't allow insurance companies to have the final say in your home's value

8. Prepare survival supplies. Have supplies for your car and your home. These include first aid supplies, extra water, filtration systems, generators, flashlights, food and blankets.

9. Have an emergency plan in place for your family. Know who to contact in case of an emergency and where you will meet up with each other. Have an emergency plan for your neighborhood. Who is in charge? Where can you find water?