Hurricane Michael, its death and destruction, are a rude reminder to each of us that disaster preparedness is everyone’s business.

Each region of our country faces serious threats from Mother Nature. hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, major wild land fires, and earthquakes to name but a few.

Each of these events can takes lives, injure many, destroy your property, cost you your job, or business, and may devastate the local economy for years.

After a major incident such as Hurricane Michael or Katrina, it takes years to fully restore water lines, sewer lines, power lines, roads, bridges, schools, parks, hospitals, housing of all types, and the list goes on.

As difficult as it is to leave your residence when an evacuation order is issued, we must do so. Too many times we learn of the loss of life after one of these events. Some people don’t want to leave their homes and sadly lose their lives and endanger the lives of first responders as a result of that decision.

As recovery operations begin massive amounts of debris must be removed. Expect shortages of building materials and even significant increases in cost for those materials. If utilities are down, you may not even be able to do a simple thing like charge a cell phone. ATM’s, laptops, and desktop computers depend on power sources that might not be available for long periods of time. Are you ready for those inconveniences? How long can you or your family live in a temporary shelter? What about your pets? Lots to consider and prepare for.

Now is a good time to talk with your insurance company. Make sure you have adequate coverage to cover replacement costs for your home or business.  Prepare yourself, family, and your place of work for a disaster. It is only a question of time until the next disaster will strike. Will you be ready or will you or someone you love be a statistic?

Government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state emergency management agencies have come a long way since the problems identified with these agencies during and after Katrina. As much as these agencies have learned, they cannot be everywhere and they cannot get to everyone as fast as they like.

Look at the pace of recovery operations for our friends in Puerto Rico. They still have widespread problems with infrastructure and especially the restoration of electrical power following their devastating hurricane. Floridians have been hard hit and their recovery operations are just beginning.

Lives will be lost. Homes and apartments destroyed.  You could lose your job until commercial and retail establishments can rebuild. Many disaster impacted communities report losing 30 percent or more of their businesses permanently.

Loss of jobs and property also impact all levels of government operations. With the loss of jobs, sales, and property tax, local officials rely on to fund services are gone. Police, fire, transportation, and emergency medical services are stretched thin and to the breaking point. Mutual assistance is the order of the day but those resources take time to assemble.  National Guard members and the equipment they need to respond are also stretched thin after 18 years at war. The same goes for federal military forces.

As we mourn the loss of lives caused by these natural disasters and hold the victims in our thoughts and prayers, let’s remember that preparedness is a personal responsibility. The old rule of having “three days of emergency supplies” won’t cut it. We must do more.  More at home, work, at schools, and in our hospitals.

Please take time to make sure you are ready for the next natural or man-made disaster. Your city, county, state, and federal disaster response agencies have plenty of information to help you prepare your family, friends, and businesses all you have to do is ask.


Editor’s note: Tom Freeman served in Emergency Management at the state, county and city level. He has responded to earthquakes, floods, wildland fires, and civil unrest, in a variety of roles.