In this podcast, I lay out another foundational aspect of preparing by going over the common things that you can expect to happen in a major disaster. Not that everything on this list occurs in every crisis, but you should go through the list and make sure that your prepared for these things. Especially mentally. Most of us have never experienced a major disaster or “war zone” and aren’t prepared for the harsh reality of what follows a disastrous event.
- Collapsed and damaged buildings
- Electrical shorts
- Gas leaks
- Smoke and or dust
- Communications overloaded or completely down
- Lack of information
- Hazardous materials – gas, diesel, chemicals, poisonous vapors
- Water will be undrinkable without treatment. Water may have to be trucked in.
- Loss of power or intermittent power.
- Darkness, either after the sun sets or inside buildings where there are no windows.
- Sewage backs up
- Damaged roads and bridges. Bridges will be unsafe to use, or simply non-existent.
- Damage can be so extensive that visual landmarks no longer exit making it hard to get your bearings.
- Death. Some people will die immediately due to the event, some will die from injuries caused by the event. Dead and injured children.
- Smells – blood, urine, feces, open bodies
- Gore – sights of bodies you’ve never seen before
- Poor sanitation, there will be few places to relieve self.
- Confusion, chaos and disorganization. It can’t be helped.
- While some can panic, it’s usually not common. In the worst possible cases of “normal” disasters, only 15-30 per cent of victims show passive and dazed reactions.
- Though if the disaster is a terrorist attack like an NBC attack or a pandemic or other event where people realize that it may be an EOTW scenario (at least for them), they act irrationally.
- Volunteerism – many people start rescue operations and clean-up fairly rapidly, though there may be confusion on what needs to be done.
- People tend to help each other in normal times. Crime and looting are usually due to pre-existing conditions (e.g., Hurr. Katrina).
- If the disaster is catastrophic, it’s once people start realizing that things aren’t going back to normal that they might start to to look at things differently.
- Loss of the ability to cope.
Recovery Efforts / Media Attention:
- Initial information is usually wrong.
- Coordination will be poor, people trying to help will be running around getting lost.
- Emergency vehicles, personnel and equipment everywhere. Lot of official activity.
- Media – they’ll swamp the place.
- Medical personnel will be overloaded and might triage off patients.
- Police will be stretched thin, criminals know this.
- If large event, people may be reluctant to help others, choosing to protect their own families.
- If long term disaster, disease. Especially diarrheal disease outbreaks due to contaminated water.
- Condemned buildings and houses.
- Won’t be able to get home quickly, might have to walk.
- Children may be stranded, whether because parents can’t get out of disaster area or because school/day care is in disaster area.
- Crime – looting, robbing, worse.
- Roads will be either clogged with traffic or obstructed with debris and abandoned vehicles (including emergency responders’ vehicles).
- Supplies will be short.
- Lack of available fuel.
- Anyone trying to drive through the disaster area will get flat tires.
- Storage tanks may fail (large water, fuel, oil).
- Lack of medical care or transport to medical care. Even if the phones are working, there won’t be anyone available to come to your aid or rescue.
- Lack of replacement batteries (they don’t last forever like in the movies).
- Gear gets damaged, lost or stolen.
- Not all emergency responders are trained adequately; not everyone knows what needs to be done.
- Aid and relief do not usually come fast enough.
Again, not every one of these occurs in every disaster, but these are the things that commonly happen that you should be prepared to deal with. By knowing what to expect, you and you’re family will be better prepared to act quickly and decisively, and thus be better able to protect yourselves.