In Stephen King’s novel, Under the Dome, a small town in Maine becomes suddenly cut off from the outside world by “an invisible barrier of unknown origin”. If that sounds a bit too much like the Simpsons Movie or science fiction for you, simply replace the dome with any other sort of hazard (earthquake, avalanche, flood), force good (and bad people) to fend for themselves and watch mayhem ensue. It was an excellent book.
Without getting into the details of the plot and characters it made me think about disaster preparedness: lots of folks had generators but not enough propane to power them and one resident ran out of her OxyContin.
Like all things risk management, we know preparation is important but we rarely make time for it. In my home we have a large stockpile of food in our basement but I must confess this is has less to do with disaster preparation and more to do with excellent sales. While we probably have enough cans of corn and boxes of Quaker Harvest Crunch to feed the family for a week, I am not sure how useful those cans of Hunt’s Manwich or Tuna Helper will be without ground beef and milk respectively.
According to the Government of Canada, in addition to canned goods and 2 litres of water per day per person, other items to have are a manual can opener (duh!), a flashlight and batteries, a wind up radio (I have a wind up radio with a flashlight!), a first aid kit, extra keys and cash.
I highly recommend the cash. As my classmate Anne Marie once said on the first day of B-school: “cash is primordial”. When I think back to August 14, 2003, when the lights went out in the northeast, I stood in the concourse of my office building and took note that the ATMs a few yards away were still running on emergency power. However I went back to my office first (elevator to 3rd floor still running on emergency power) to get my belongings, but when I returned the cash machines were out of juice. Lesson learned.
Next week (May 6-12, 2012) is Emergency Preparedness Week so have a read and get prepared.