Disasters Change Lives Forever

In the year 2005, natural disasters killed over 25,000 people and caused $57.7 billion in damage worldwide. Besides the obvious, direct impact of natural disasters (such as a tornado destroying a house), there are usually many indirect effects.

Although these effects may be less obvious, they are often times more costly and can add years on to the recovery time from a disaster. As people who live in communities that have been devastated by a natural hazard will often say, “there is no such thing as a complete recovery, disasters change people’s lives forever”.

Disaster Mitigation is the first link in the chain of disaster survival. Mitigation is the process of reducing the severity of the impact of natural hazards through planning. Each hazard requires a specific type of mitigation. In some cases, we can use engineering solutions. Earthquake-resistant construction and devices to hold objects in place such as earthquake straps could at least reduce the impact of a natural hazard. In other cases, the only form of mitigation that is guaranteed to be successful is to limit or not allow human activities where the hazard occurs, such as floodplains, volcanoes and high fire risk areas.

But unfortunately, in some cases such as Hurricane Katrina and the Asian Tsunami, the fact that there was little or no planning or mitigation took its toll on human life. These types of disasters have a profound impact on us all. Prediction of natural disasters has improved greatly but more work needs to be done. Protection against manmade disasters must continue in a logical, controlled and decisive manner.

The second link in the chain of disaster survival is personal preparation. Making plans for evacuation, having the correct survival supplies such as water and food that has a five-year shelf life, a flashlight that doesn’t need batteries and a radio to stay connected to the outside world, is essential to us all. It is suggested that each person have at least 72 hours of supplies. Statistically, the citizens of the United States are not prepared. Less then 40% of the population has a plan and even less have supplies. The list of items is overwhelming to some people and just knowing where to start can be a conundrum.

Disasters do come in all forms and change our lives. We have seen it first hand in recent years. Mitigation, preparation and prediction will decrease loss of life and property. Every one of us must participate in disaster preparation. Some people say “expect the unexpected” but in reality we must anticipate the expected and prepare.