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The Things We Forget

I cannot help but be amazed, at times, about how quickly our memories, both collectively and indivdiually, glaze over the sum of experiences for a period of our lives and deliver what can only be described as a “rose-colored glasses” view of events.

A great example of this is the current situation in which I find myself.  I am currently attempting to juggle between typing this post and coercing my great-niece, who has been in my care and effectively my custody for three weeks now, to stop eating her bib and instead eat the apple-mango baby food mixed with rice cereal I am offering.

About five years ago, while my wife and I still lived in Colorado, a friend asked us to step in and be the guardians pro tem of his two children, a little girl midway through her second year, and her five month old little brother.  The details are unimportant, and can be summed up by stating that he was an infantry soldier scheduled to depart for Afghanistan in June, who found himself a single father in April.  We were the closest thing he had to a support system.

I remember getting up at 3 AM with Luke, the baby, and I remember the dirty diapers.  But somehow, my mind glossed over just how tired I was, and just how much foul, disgusting sewage a baby produces.

A similar thing happens with the survivors of disasters.  One would expect that residents of Florida or Louisiana, where hurricanes often seem an annual occurance, are generally well-prepared for those types of storms.  Yet the passage of years between significant storms blurs the collective memories, and frequently, when a period of several years goes by without a major landfall, the people forget what it is like to be without electricity or running water during the hottest months of the year.  We fail to prepare because we survived the last one, and the next one will be more of the same.  We remember that August without air conditioning is hot, but we fail to remember sleeping on tile floors because they are cooler than the bed.  We forget how utterly boring life is when we have no television, no internet, and no reason to stay awake after dark because we have no light.

Just for the record, for those who have forgotten, apple-mango stains baby bibs yellow, and a good dirty diaper will clear a room in under 30 seconds.  Also for the record, baby boys are much easier to dress in matching clothes, because khaki and denim goes with everything.

 

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Changes

For those of my readers who follow my posts, I have decided to split my blog to match the two distinct groups of topics.  My professional posts can now be read under Concepts in Emergency Management while my personal rants, raves, and updates will continue to occur here.  

On the topic of changes, I have always wanted to be a family man.  While my wife has two sons, I only periodically am able to interact with them, especially now that they live half a continent away.  

In the last year, we have worked towards opening up adoption as a viable means of starting our own family.  Our intent was to adopt a little girl with whom we’ve fallen in love, and call it a life.  

Unbeknownst to either of us, that plan appears highly unlikely to work out like we expected.  In the last 90 days, that number has gone from a single 7 year old to an additional pair of infants to boot who seem likely to be living with us in the near future, proabably as permanent additions.  It is highly likely that my niece’s daughter will be placed with us within the next couple of weeks, placement on the “planned” adoption should occur  before Christmas, and my wife’s baby sister is in the process of losing rights to yet another child, bringing the total to THREE (3) (WHAT AM I THINKING?!?) little girls into the Insta-Family o’ Chris, who also turned 40 this spring, meaning it’s likely that I’ll have 2 in college when I turn 60.  

Mitigating Personal Risk (Part 2)

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I couldn’t help but stare in wonder at the pictures of US Hwy 24 between Woodland Park & Manitou Springs, Colorado, from a few days ago.  Less than 12 hours after posting my article on the importance of investigating all hazards that you are vulnerable to, my point was driven home by mudslides along a stretch of highway I used to drive on a relatively frequent basis while I lived in Colorado Springs.  

 

Waldo Canyon was the epicenter to one of the numerous wild fires which ravaged the mountains near Garden of the Gods last summer, and the loss of ground cover made erosion a serious concern when heavy rains began to fall a few weeks ago.  That erosion occurred in great volume with little warning, sending mud across a divided four-lane highway that winds between the shallow canyon of the Arkansas River on one side, and cliff faces on the other.  

Mudslides aren’t something we normally think about in terms of dangers that are present in our daily lives, and in general, the consensus of Americans tend to believe that they are events reserved for third-world countries such as El Salvador.  Yet, here, in America’s heartland, the potential for mudslides obviously exists when the damage from wide-spread wild fires is unable to repair before heavy rains occur.  

Most jurisdiction emergency management offices, whether it be municipal, county, tribal, or state, have a list of all environmental hazards prepared for general use.  FEMA has a list which is a little broad for my taste, allowing me to look at what threatens each state.  

As I mentioned in Part I, knowing what threats are out there allow us to plan how to meet the challenge of increasing our personal and familial resilience to disaster.  Some aspects of it, honestly, are extremely common sense.  When I lived in Kansas, the threat of tornado-spawning thunderstorm was a part of our culture.  This was so much the case that, in 1999, while awaiting a briefing in Montgomery, AL, before departing for Latin America, a tornado warning sent approximately 200 Reservists packing into a “safe” briefing room.  The eight members of the Kansas contingent all went outside to watch the storm, telling the locals that if you couldn’t see or hear a tornado, it wasn’t a concern (the storm, we later learned, had dropped a funnel cloud for about 250 yards some 12 miles away.)  

Most people in Florida are well-versed in planning measures for hurricanes and flooding.  After all, Andrew has only recently been eclipsed by Horatio Cane as the biggest deal to hit Miami.  We also have our share of wild fires, because the sub-tropical vegetation burns fast and hot, and the density makes it hard to control.  Yet we don’t bother preparing for mudslides because, to put it simply, there’s not much for mud to slide off of.  

I urge the readers to talk to the local landmarks, those neighbors who have spent decades within a few miles of their current location.  Communicate with the local officials, Red Cross, and other knowledgeable sources to find out exactly what the major and moderate threats are to your community.  Only then can you begin to mitigate your risk of loss, and increase your disaster resilience before you become a survivor.   

Mitigating Personal Risk (Part 1)

Risk, as a concept of disaster preparedness, is rather new to the public purview.  The word has been defined in many ways, and honestly, even the newest usage of the term has not really altered the common usage definition that we all know.

At its core, risk can be defined as the probability that the consequences of a decision will have negative impacts on those taking it.  We quantify risk by comparing the perceived degree of loss.  By operating a motor-vehicle without a valid drivers license, for example, I run the risk of being charged with violating my local jurisdiction’s laws concerning driving without a license.  There was a time when my license was suspended, and I routinely drove 30 miles to work despite the restriction.  I decided that the benefit of receiving a paycheck from my full-time job was worth the risk of getting a $500 ticket if I got caught.

In terms of the finance and insurance industries, the amount of risk intrinsic to a choice is generally calculated by comparing the potential loss to the potential investment.  If, for example, I spend $1 on a lotto ticket, my risk is $1, but the potential gain is much higher.  However, considering that the odds of winning in such games is usually 20-25%, my risk of losing is pretty significant.  Most people, however, are willing to take on the risk of losing $1 in order to have a potential to win $1,000, even though we all know that most of the winning tickets are for either a push ($1 winner on a $1 ticket) or a free ticket.

So if we’re willing to spend a dollar on lotto, why don’t people routinely pony up $1,000 on a lotto ticket.  True, you can’t generally find them, but the reason is because they wouldn’t sell.  The populace who commonly buys lotto tickets are not willing to risk $1,000 on an investment that has a 75% chance of total loss.

When it applies to disaster preparedness, risk is an important aspect of the overall process.  As a resident of central Florida, I do not, for example, own a snow shovel, nor do any of my neighbors.  The reason is that since 1765, there have been two significant snow events in this area, one in 1899, and the most recent in 1979.  In neither case did the snowfall total exceed a few inches, and little remained after the sun rose.  Thus, we can quantify my risk for being impacted by a blizzard as astronomical at best, making it imprudent for me to make preparations for a winter storm.

On the other hand, living on a 75 mile wide spit of land at the northern edge of the Caribbean, only 40 miles from the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the North Atlantic on the East, and living only a short distance from the official start of “tropical” climates, my area is prone to tropical weather systems.  Even if my neighborhood doesn’t resemble Galveston Island, sustained winds in excess of 100-125 MPH, and feet of rainfall over the course of a couple days means that my risk for losing electricity is very high, as is the chance for flooding in my area.  The area is, after all, simply communities raised out of marsh and swamp to permit construction.  When it rains in force, the water has nowhere to go but up.

It all boils down to this, folks.  Examine your historical weather trends.  Look at your surroundings.  I live about 3 miles from the railroad, but other than a local freight once or twice a week, Amtrak is the only service on that line.  I’m a few miles from three major highways for this area, but no significant industrial interests operate here.

Know what threatens your home.  Know what dangers you face on the way to the work or to the store.  Be aware of the potential for disaster where you work.

Everyone needs to Make a Plan, but if you don’t know whether you’re planning a birthday, wedding, funeral, or Superbowl Party, you’re likely to be in a lot of trouble.

Missing in Action

Please allow me to start this post by apologizing for my sudden and extended hiatus from writing.  

During the first week of May, I became involved in negotiations for a new job, for which I was offered a position on the 10th of that month.  The offered position was as the Assistant Manager of Emergency Management with a startup company called Athena Risk Mitigation.  My primary job (for the moment) is to set up a Disaster Response Group capable of responding anywhere in the continental United States (and eventually throughout the hemisphere, and perhaps even the world) for catastrophic incidents due to man-made or natural disasters, and terrorist attacks which wreak major damage on the local community, regardless of jurisdiction.  

I accepted the position on the 11th, with a start date of the 28th.  Around 8:00 AM on the 13th, my new boss called to ask when my plane was arriving.  So, after some last minute hoop jumping, I left Florida for my new job in The Woodlands, an affluent suburb north of Houston, Texas.  

The last six weeks have been filled with 14-16 hour work days, as we build our organization from the ground up.  It is my sincere hope to post an explanation of our company, our mission, vision, and objectives in the next few days, and after the insanity of hiring 50-60 people in the next couple of weeks dies down, to return to at least a semblance of regularity in writing for my blog.  

Until then, I beg of my followers to remain patient, as I will be back, I’m just not sure how fast.   

Disaster Supplies Series #4: Data

In this digital age, it is quite simple to overlook our reliance on electronic data when making plans for our response to a disaster.  Rare is the person who knows which digits make up any of their important contacts.  Instead, we’ve become conditioned to simply say, “Call home.”  

Everyone is aware that in times of catastrophy, one of the most common utilities to fail is the cellular network.  We rationalize that even if we can’t get reception with our cell phone, we’ll be able to use it like a PDA to access our contacts list to retrieve important numbers like our kids, parents, or job.  

What happens, then, if our homes flood, drowning our electronic lifeline in the waters, or if the tremors of an earthquake cause our iPad to fall from the table, shattering the screen on debris?  

I am guilty of this as much as the next person, but am fortunate to have a real knack for remembering phone numbers and addresses.  When I worked the desk at the local cardiac ICU, my nurses would ask me to try and get ahold of, for example, the lab techs, to find out the results for Mr. 303’s hemoglobin test was.  Because I frequently received calls from a line which the caller ID identified as “Bloodbank,” I remembered the extension number, and would dial it from memory, hand the nurse the phone, and the person they were looking for would pick up on the second ring.  

For those of you not so blessed, however, I strongly recommend an emergency contact list.  Such a list, which details the numbers of the people most likely to be worried about you, such as parents, significant others, or children, should be drawn up well in advance, and verified often.  At least three copies should be kept, all laminated (to prevent papier-mâché,) with your wallet or purse, and in each of the other two places your documents are kept.  It would also be wise to include such vital information as medical diagnoses, primary care provider, allergies, and insurance information.  I hesitate at encouraging you to include your bank information, due to the potential that someone less than ethical could find a lost copy of your documents, and armed with a copy of your photo identification and other major documents, and your routing and account numbers, could quite easily clean out your financial reserves, something you will need during a disaster more than ever before.  

It’d also be a wise idea to include at least one picture of all members of your household, including independent pets (it’s unlikely that your fish will get lost, and if it does, it’ll either die or join the native populace permanently.)  This will assist with reunification should it be necessary.  Think how horrifying if your children’s school evacuates them due to a disaster which functionally severs all transportation thoroughfares between your job and home, preventing you from coming to find your child until three or four days later.  By that time, your son or daughter will be in a shelter, likely without means of formally identifying themselves.  This is why the memorization of their parents name, address, and phone number is so important in preschool and elementary aged children.  

As has been the trend throughout this series, these principles are equally important whether your disaster plan is to shelter-in-place or evacuate on command.  If you happen to be away from home when disaster strikes, it’s quite possible that you will be unable to retrieve the items which you most need from the disaster affected area.  

 

These tips, as well as many more, can be found on any emergency management website, including FEMA’s, your state emergency management office, or the San Francisco City/County website

Disaster Supply Series #3: If It’s not written down…

Early in my years of working in EMS, a mantra was beaten into me that seems especially pertinent for this series.  

If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen…

This might seem a strange point to make in a group of articles about what you need to pack to prepare for disasters, but the simple fact of the matter is, in the modern age, you only exist if you can prove it on paper.  

My wife is on her third marriage.  About a year ago, she went through the process of obtaining her drivers license here in Florida.  If you read through the requirements, which are now standardized nationwide to ensure no terrorists get their fake identification documents from the government, you will notice that you must present a copy of your birth certificate, marriage license or other documentation explaining why your current name is not the one you were born with, and current mail to prove you actually live where you say you do.  

When we walked in to get her license, we hit a series of rather problematic brick walls.  The first of which is that the name on the birth certificate didn’t match the one of the marriage license.  After her second marriage, my wife didn’t reclaim her maiden name, and was thus forced to present a copy of her divorce decree.  What they didn’t tell her was the paper trail they were looking for.  In order to get a drivers license, you must be able to produce legal documentation tracking the story of why the name on your birth certificate doesn’t match your current name, meaning that she had to bring in copies of both divorce decrees, and a copy of her marriage license to husband #2, because it took her from the name she was born with to the name I married her with.  

With the rampant nature of identity theft, social security fraud, and other financial crimes against the government, you should expect any agency with whom you apply for financial assistance to expect proof that you are who you say, and lived where you claimed.  To make that possible, you’re going to want to gather up some copies of key papers.  I would highly recommend two additional precautions.  First, collect two sets of identification documents for each member of your household, just in case one set washes away, and secondly, to store them in water and air-tight containers, with mutliple layers.  By multiple layers, I mean fold them up and store them in a Zip-Loc bag, and then store the bag in a hard-shell container like a repurposed icecream bucket or large storage bowl.  This way, you’re less likely to have a bag of papier-mâché to give FEMA.  

At a minimum, you’re going to want to collect copies of the following:  

1) Birth Certificates and Social Security cards.  

2) Utility bills or other “official” mail showing the proper and current address.  Also ensure that you use one where the CSR didn’t misspell your name in the system.  

3) Marriage licenses, divorce decrees, and custody documents.  

4) Government-issued Photo ID documents, including passports, drivers license, and military or dependent ID cards.

5) Copies of your lease or mortgage documents, and at least one relatively current utility bill.  These can be more important than you think.  While working on the hurricane relief in New York City last fall, we came across several immigrants who had lived in basement apartments, which is illegal.  When they went to FEMA for relief, the agency reached out to their landlords, who denied having illegal tenants, and thus voided the claim.  I’m not saying that landlords can’t be trusted, but what happens if you, like I, do business with a sole-proprietorship where the landlord dies during a disaster.  No one will be able to easily validate your claim.  

Now, call me crazy, but it strikes me that practically all of the documents I’ve listed are items which are not used in common circumstances.  However, a “Cliff note” version might not be a bad idea for your redundant backup.  By this, I mean take your SSID card, drivers license, birth certificate, and marriage license (as appropriate) and make them into a collage.  If you can make a certified copy of them on a single page, this makes things even better, because instead of making a small pile of kindling on the desk, you could simply hand a small stack of neat papers which, by virtue of their certified copy status, are irreproachable.  

For those who don’t know, a Certified Copy of a document is one made by a government agency which bears a colored ink stamp, similar to a notary, which reads in effect, “I swear this is a true and accurate copy of the original document.” and is signed by a representative of the agency.  

So far as where to store these goodies, I would strongly recommend keeping the originals in the location where you keep all of your important papers, with your backup copy in a Go-Bag.  Obviously, the basic documents are kept in your personal possession (such as your wallet or purse.)  

When the excrement collides with an oscillator, your ability to clean up the mess might just rely on the ability to prove that you are who you say you are, and that you live where you claim. So make sure that you are prepared.  

Get Up-Get Out: Emergent Evacuations

I want to take a moment to write briefly (compared to my other articles) about an event that dovetails quite nicely with the current series I am writing about Disaster Supply Reserves.

This past Tuesday, whilst cleaning out the home of a deceased gentleman who lived in a Central Florida trailer park, his loved ones discovered a supply of unusual chemicals, as well as other items to bring them to believe he had been working on rather nefarious plans.  They called 9-1-1, and deputies determined, after a brief assessment, that it was likely that the dead man had been building bombs.

For my international readers, a trailer park is a residential neighborhood populated almost exclusively by prefabricated homes which are known for their thriftyness rather than their sturdiness.  When I was growing up in Kansas, we referred to these complexes as “Tornado Magnets.”

Due to public safety concerns, the incident commander on the scene decided to order the evacuation of an area several hundred feet in radius, meaning that approximately 50 families were ordered out of their home without any warning.  If they were outside at the time, they weren’t even allowed to re-enter their homes to grab a purse.  There was also no real picture at that point of how long the evacuation would last.

The Emergency Manager called the American Red Cross for assistance with establishment of a shelter.  It was to be set up in a Middle School gymnasium a few blocks away.  The plan was for 12-18 hours of sheltering activities, meaning these folks would be spending the night.  When I arrived at the shelter site at 4:45 PM, I was informed that there was a public transportation bus on standby at the trailer park, waiting to transport evacuees to my shelter.  I was also informed of the following:

Pre-registration had indicated that many of the evacuees had nothing other than the clothes on their backs.  There were folks with diabetes, and a host of other medical issues that would be coming to spend the night, who had not received any warning to allow them even a minute to grab their essentials.

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Pedestrians clogged the bridges out of Manhattan on September 11th in an attempt to escape the island.

Now when we talk about disasters, most people think about weather-related events such as flooding, hurricanes, blizzards, or tornadoes.  Even in the most extreme circumstances, such as a tornado spawning on top of our block, we always presume we’ll have at least a minute or two to grab those things that are truly essential to survival:  a purse, a wallet, a diaper bag, our shoes.  

Somehow, as a society, we’ve managed to rationalize to ourselves that if a disaster strikes, I will just stay home.  If I MUST get out, I’ll have a few minutes to grab the essentials.  But what happens when the disaster is impending, and the evacuation isn’t leisurely.  What if the next Ted Kaczynski happens to live across the alley from you?  Or if the tanker hauling fuel to your neighborhood convenience store loses control and rams into the swimming pool maintenance store, engulfing all of the barrels of chlorine and other chemicals in flames?  Trust me when I say that if a cloud of chlorine gas is blowing towards your house, the one thing you don’t have is time to remember where you left your wallet.  You have only a minute to complete three basic steps:  Get Up, Get Out, Get Gone!

Fortunately for all concerned, the story I related to lead this article off ended happily.  Rather than the minimum of 12 hours originally estimated to safely contain and transport the hazardous materials, the Bomb Disposal Unit was able to successfully remove the threat in around a third of the time, and at 6:20, I received a call from the Emergency Manager authorizing the Red Cross to close the shelter, without having ever seen a single client.

Disaster Supply Series #2: Personal Hygiene

So after a couple of posts motivated by current events, I’ve returned to my series on the supplies you need to have for a disaster.  

This article will be focusing on the need to maintain quality personal hygiene in a disaster situation.  Now, please, don’t misunderstand that statement.  By personal hygiene, I’m not simply telling you to remember to grab a toothbrush and stink-stick (deodorant) when you run out the door.  

The term personal hygiene refers to all of the work we do to treat our outsides as well as we do our insides.  Just like you wouldn’t stock up on beer and pretzels in our disaster food and water reserves, you have to make sure that, should a catastrophic incident occur, you have all of the supplies you need to maintain our external body in a healthy manner.  

Incidentally, if you are planning on storing nothing to eat or drink besides beer and pretzels, you might want to rethink your plan, and send me your address so I know where to send the cadaver dogs.  

In addition to the normal shaving kit type equipment (razor, toothbrush, comb,etc.,) you need to have a reserve stock of everything that keeps you from looking like an artist’s rendering of Neanderthal or Cro-Magnons.  

Clothing:  Whether sheltering-in-place, or evacuating, when wide-spread power outages result from disasters, it’s going to be very difficult to run the washing machine.  Now, I’ll grant you that if you’re sheltering-in-place, you’ll have a closet full of clothes to change into, however, if you anticipate a significantly long-term scenario, you might want to bag up those jeans that’ve become a little too snug.  If there’s no power for several weeks, chances are your dietary intake will also suffer, and you’ll lose that extra layer of fluff.  

For those planning to evacuate, however, you’ll want at least one full change of clothes.  Additionally, make sure you have a rugged pair of shoes or boots able to handle walking through broken glass, metal, and wood debris.  A pair of canvas dock shoes, or Converse low-quarters, are NOT an appropriate choice for post-impact footwear.  

Also, I cannot stress enough a mantra that every soldier and Marine learns in Basic Training.  If you take care of your feet, your feet will take care of you.  Make sure your disaster footwear fits and is broken in (not to be confused with broken down.)  I would recommend that in addition to wearing them around the house for a few hours a day when you first get them, that you take some long walks. It is important to identify potential problems before crisis arrives.  If your neighborhood, post-disaster, looks like a national forest threw up in it, or that a concrete plant was dumped in the middle of your street, you won’t be driving to replenish food and water supplies right away.  Start with walking around the block for at least a mile.  If you develop blisters, you might need to examine your choice in shoes (are they REALLY the right size) or socks (cotton socks which get damp can increase friction over snug spots, exacerbating into serious blisters.)  If your feet start aching, especially in your arches, consider picking up some cheap insoles to provide additional support.  If your legs and knees start hurting before your feet do, you probably need to work on conditioning.  Gradually increase the distance of your hikes until you can manage 3 miles without a break.  (If you live in a rural area, continue conditioning until you’re able to walk at least five to ten miles, or the distance to the nearest town, which ever is less.) 

Make sure that your disaster supplies include no less than half-a-dozen pair of socks which you’re able to hike in.  You’ll want to change them whenever they get saturated, or daily.  Even if you are simply rotating them, and  unable to wash them, starting the day with dry socks will go a long way to maintaining foot health.  

Anti-funk Supplies:  In a crisis situation, especially one with basic utility outages, being able to maintain a certain modicum of cleanliness is important, both to morale and to your health.  The simple ability to clean up after a long day of sweating your butt off hauling debris out of your yard can restore a measure of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic period of your life.  I’d recommend that any disaster kit contain a brick of baby wipes.  These can be used to clean your face and hands, wipe your pitts, or clean off dirty dishes.  If you’re using stick deodorant, grab one that is powder-free.  That powder can, when you’re spending all day sweating, cause clogging of your pores, which can be quite uncomfortable.  A toothbrush can be used to get that pasty coat of grime off of your teeth, even if you don’t have toothpaste. 

Hand-sanitizing liquid is an absolute must-have in a disaster.  A large percentage of the nasty diseases which can be contracted in a disaster situation are the direct result of cross-contamination, which simply means that you accidentally injest something containing harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, E. coli, or ghiardia.  When cleaning up before a meal, you should wipe all of the dirt and gunk from your hands with a baby wipe, then use the sanitizer.  

The vast majority of remaining types of diseases contractible in a disaster are insect-borne.  When you have no power for A/C, your home becomes an oven, as the building materials absorb heat during the day, and then release it when temperatures drop.  You’re not going to want to sit in your house, meaning you will need some sort of insect repellent to keep the flies and mosquitos away.  The final item in this list is sunscreen.  Again, if you’re spending 12-16 hours a day cleaning up the mess outside, you’re going to be susceptible to lobsteritis, aka sunburn.  

Finally, any medication which you require for normal behavior should be stored up.  Some, like insulin, can be temperature sensitive, but medications for heart, psychiatric, or blood-pressure could quite literally mean the difference between life and death.  You can probably operate without your pill to control your cholesterol, but diabetics shouldn’t push their luck.  

West, Texas, Boston, Suburbs Have a Lesson to Teach Us All

I’ve been, I believe, quite consistent on the need for each family to be prepared.  If you’ve read my previous posts, I’ve harped on having a five-day supply or better of food and water, of planning out not only where, but how and with what you will evacuate.  

This week’s tragedies at the Boston Marathon and the West, Texas fertilizer plant should drive home the importance of Universal Preparedness.  Regardless of where you live in this country, or truthfully in this world, your neighborhood, community, city, and region have the potential for catastrophe.  There are, I believe, a few key take-aways from these two events.  

1) Despite what various individuals and groups are trumpeting about the obvious conspiracy at work in Boston, what with bomb-sniffing dogs and spotters on the rooftops, the Marathon bombing was not a botched sting operation, nor was it a false-flag mission to give us an excuse to go beat up some other third world country, thus revitalizing patriotism and injecting much need capital into our economy through the revitalization of the military-industrial complex.  

What we saw (albeit afterwords) around the start and finish lines at Boston was a well-executed Comprehensive Emergency Managment Plan (CEMP.)  A CEMP is designed by developing a threat matrix, and then building an emergency plan for each type of event.  For example, the Boston Marathon is a high-visibility event with tangible (by which I mean targetable) real estate.  Therefore, it was determined to be a high-value target by Boston’s Office of Emergency Management.  They would have developed a plan for keeping the location secure, which would have included sharpshooter/spotter teams positioned to overlook the most likely locations where someone would start shooting, and explosive-detection assets (dogs, and probably other technology based systems) in high vulnerability areas.  The pictures we’ve been shown by conspiracy theorists as proof that there was pre-event knowledge of the plans of these terrorists are simply pictures of the OEM’s CEMP in action.  

2) NOBODY is immune from the need to shelter-in-place.  I’ll be the first to admit I hadn’t foreseen a mandatory SIP order as a component of a localized lockdown in this type of event, but I believe that it was the right choice, given the circumstances.  And, as absolutely heart-warming I found the picture of the fully-outfitted tactical officer delivering two gallons of milk to a suburban home whose infant had ran out of milk, it was a poor utilization of assets that could have been prevented if the family had maintained an emergency stock.  In the food service industry, it’s referred to as “par levels.”  Basically, if my household’s consumption of milk is 1 gallon every four days, since milk usually has about 2-3 weeks of shelf-life after purchase, keeping an extra gallon in the fridge, and using the older milk first, replacing it with new when consumed, will ensure that you have an extra supply on hand at all times.  

3)  There is no predicting when or where disasters will strike.  I would be willing to bet that before the tones were sounded to call out the West (TX) Volunteer Fire Department to the Fertilizer Plant, residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the facility were trying to cook dinner while not missing a single word of the coverage from Boston.  In a matter of a couple of hours, the explosion from the plant converted entire homes into a vast cloud of metal, wood, and glass shrapnel which raized entire blocks.  Those who were able to do so had an immediate and incontrovertable need to get to safety with absolutely no lead-time.  If they didn’t have Go-bags packed and ready to go, they likely arrived at the homes of friends and family (practically nobody spent even a single night in a formal evacuation shelter, a fact that community leaders point to as testament to the close-knit nature of their corner of Texas,) with the clothes on their backs, likely with kids in stocking feet, and without any more baby supplies than were already in the diaper bag. 

My wife works for the Department of Corrections here in Florida.  As such, she is considered to be essential during any catastrophic incident.  This means that if she’s at work, and something happens, she doesn’t come home until the state decides its okay for her to leave.  As such, I’ve started conditioning her to keep a couple of extra sets of uniforms, as well as personal hygiene supplies, in a bag in the car.   Just having enough stuff in your car to be away from home for 48 hours at any given time is a distinct improvement over getting caught running from your home in your tighty-whiteys in times of emergency.  

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