Friday, April 1, 2011

Foolish Myths

For April Fool's I'll bring back a post from two years ago about Disaster Prep Myths...

The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fool's Day;
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
- Anonymous
MYTH: “Disasters are Random Killers”
FACT:  Disasters are more likely to kill those living in substandard housing and the uninformed. Japan with strict building codes survived the earthquaking (the Tsunami caused most damage). While in Haiti an earthquake caused massive damage with cheaply made building. – Pan American Health Organization

MYTH: “If something happens all I have to do is call 911.”
FACT: “Security, like charity, begins at home and the responsibility for your family’s safety rests on your shoulders.” – Paul Purcell, security analyst and preparedness consultant. 911 will be overwhelmed (if functioning at all). There are not enough rescue workers to rescue everyone immediately.

MYTH: “All I need is a 72-hour kit with a flashlight, first aid kit, some food and water and a radio to hear further instruction.”
FACT: You need to be self-sufficient for a minimum of one week.

MYTH: I don’t need to prepare because when “big one” hits, I’m dead anyway
FACT: “Mass Destruction” does NOT mean “Total Destruction.” When the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Eizo Nomura survived in a basement just 100m from ground zero. Akiko Takakura survived 300m from the blast center inside a solidly built bank.

MYTH: I don’t need to prepare because nothing like that could ever happen here.
FACT: Each part of the world has its own unique disaster potential. I wrote earlier about a preparedness specialist in the Chicago suburbs who knew he was unlikely to ever experience earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Imagine his surprise when ordered to evacuate his home because an abandoned train car had caught fire and potentially deadly fumes were drifting through his neighborhood.

MYTH: “Food shortages are inevitable after every disaster”
FACT: Food is usually available but frequently not accessible. (Hence the need for family supplies until roads are clear.) The real shortage after most disasters is clean drinking water. - Jean Luc Poncelet, MD

MYTH: “I received money for another disaster or from another agency or I make too much money, so there’s no point in applying for aid”
FACT: Every disaster is considered separately. And while FEMA will not duplicate insurance benefits, you may be eligible for help with losses not covered or with damages in excess of your coverage ("under-insured"). Most federal and state disaster assistance programs are available to ALL who suffered damages regardless of your income. - FEMA

MYTH: “I gave my information to a local emergency manager (or the Red Cross) so FEMA already has my case details.”
FACT: To be eligible for federal and state disaster assistance, you must apply online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) (TTY 1-800-462-7585).

MYTH: “When a foreign disaster occurs, send ASAP every available volunteer (especially doctors) and send supplies of everything as quickly as possible.”
FACT: “The myth that the affected local population is helplessly waiting for the Western world to save it is also false, especially in countries with a large – but unevenly distributed – medical population. In fact, only a handful of survivors owe their lives to foreign teams. Most survivors owe their lives to neighbors and local authorities.” - Dr. Claude de Ville de Goyet. Unplanned and unorganized humanitarian aid supplies can be useless and clog distribution sites from receiving supplies that are critical. It is best to ASK what is needed before leaping to conclusions.

MYTH: “Life will be back to normal in a few weeks”
FACT: Long after the media cameras have moved onto the next big story, people will be rebuilding homes and local infrastructure. “The greatest need for assistance appears several weeks and months after the event. It takes several years to rebuild a badly damaged area.” - Pan American Health Organization


Don't be caught looking foolish. Read the articles linked to above. There’s a lot to learn about preparing your home and what NOT to do when helping others.

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