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EDITORIAL

Are you ready for a disaster?

Monday, March 24, 2014 - 8:42 am

You could be on your own for three days.

Since we’ve just come off the most brutal winter in decades, most of you are probably relaxing in anticipation of a kinder, gentler spring. But don’t relax too much – we’re also heading into the season of potential disasters. That includes entirely predictable disasters – such as flooding and tornadoes – and ones nobody sees coming, such as gas explosions and the ever-frightening UFO invasion.

And most of you aren’t ready. Furthermore, you think the first responders charged with helping you are more ready than they really are. According to a new online survey from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, 51 percent of Hoosiers believe emergency personnel would be able to arrive at their residences within six hours of a widespread disaster. But department spokesman John Erickson says it could take up to three days for emergency responders to help all affected residents after a disaster because they would first help the “hardest hit, most vulnerable population” before aiding others.

That three-day possibility, don’t forget, is when things are going well, and sometimes they just don’t. Remember Katrina, when federal, state and local agencies fell more into the “running with scissors” category than the “plays well with others” one? Then there was Superstorm Sandy, which was so overwhelmingly devastating to New Jersey that responders simply had trouble getting to everyone.

Takeaway lesson: If disaster strikes, you might be on your own for a time before help can get to you. Are you ready?

Not likely. More than half of those who took the Homeland Security survey admitted they did not have three days’ worth of water and nonperishable food on hand, the minimum most experts recommend. Some even suggest three emergency kits – one each for home, office and car. There are also other items to consider, such as medications, first-aid supplies, flashlights, toiletries and comfort items such as games and writing materials.

There are plenty of places online to help you assemble your emergency kits. A good place to start is redcross.org, which recommends a two-week supply for homes and a three-day supply for evacuation. Don’t put it off.

Finally, a light moment

Indiana U.S. Sen. Dan Coats was appropriately wry on discovering that he was one of nine people banned from Russia in the tit-for-tat sanctionings over the absorption of Crimea. “While I’m disappointed I won’t be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer,” he said, “I am honored to be on this list.”

This was the first even moderately amusing news from this whole mess, which has seen Russian President Vladimir Putin begin reassembling the Soviet Union while the U.S. and Europe sputter with empty threats in response.