Friday, 13 June 2014

Preparing for Natural Disasters (Natural Disasters and Opportunities for Action Part 4)

This week, doctoral researcher Lauren Traczykowski, discusses the ethics of intervention for natural disasters and opportunities for action.

The problems outlined in my previous posts – the environment, humanitarian emergencies – likely seem like common societal problems which need more than just a few of us registering our opinions. So today I will focus my post a little closer to home.

As I have previously said, if for no other reason, you should care about how a government prepares for and responds to natural disasters because a natural disaster WILL affect you at some point. Your life will be in the hands of others. Wouldn’t you like to know that there are robust plans and policies in place for when disaster does strike?

Today I want to focus on preparedness. Preparedness involves a state of readiness for whatever comes. So, let’s take flooding. A government prepares for the possibility of flooding by doing things like checking dams, putting up flood defences and making laws about where people can build homes and businesses (having to do with flood plain management). But governments know that floods will still occur despite their best efforts and therefore the people likely affected must also be prepared. The US Government, which I am more familiar with, reminds people that “anywhere it rains, it can flood”[1]. The USG has therefore established an initiative which asks you to Pledge to Prepare[2]. This is about preparing society for floods (and other natural hazards). But it is also worth noting that by preparing yourself and your family you are making it easier for the government to respond to the disaster. Preparedness initiatives are valuable for society at large because by being personally prepared you are freeing up resources to be diverted to more critical cases.

The West Midlands is incredibly prone to flooding due to the concentration of rivers and waterways flowing in and around Birmingham[3]. We must be acutely aware of flash floods, rivers bursting their banks, or even drains that stop draining. The British Government offers excellent advice as to how we can each, at an individual level, plan for a flood. This involves developing a plan and creating a personal flood kit.[4] Once again, personal preparedness saves your life – but it can also contribute to a more prepared community. This allows for resources to be distributed to the most extreme cases.

Finally, and as usual this week, if the idea of flooding in your area seems too distant to care about, I offer a final way for you to prepare for natural disasters. There is always the possibility of a quick on-set, over-in-a-second-type disaster. In these cases the government might be too distant to do anything to help you or your loved ones. As has been my tradition this week, I would like to offer you advice from the Red Cross. The British Red Cross now offers an app for first aid.[5] It provides step by step instructions on how to assist someone with anything from an allergic reaction to a head injury.

So – be prepared for a natural disaster. You are saving your own life and possibly the lives of others.

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