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Another View: Emergency prep begins at home, spreads abroad

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, publisher, Auburn Journal
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As the rain pounded my office skylight and the lights flickered Monday afternoon, I had flashbacks of my two stints in the Northwest — and the incessant storms that rolled in from November through March. It really didn’t matter where. Eugene, Florence, Cottage Grove, Gig Harbor, Tacoma … if it wasn’t raining at that precise, particular moment, there was a good chance it would at a moment to be named later. At the University of Oregon, it didn’t rain once in the first six weeks I was there. Indian summer, they called it. For a native Californian who read stories of epic storms and rainfall measured in feet, not inches, I felt cheated of the Northwest experience. I didn’t have to wait long. Late October rolled in with a series of squalls. It rained, it poured, it sprinkled and it dumped. It drizzled, it showered and it came down in buckets. I didn’t see it raining cats and dogs, but it probably did. In class one day, I asked a guy next to me when he thought the rain would let up. “Probably April, but definitely by June,” he said without hesitation. About 15 years later, and living on Fox Island in the Puget Sound, I witnessed windstorms that knocked down fir trees like matchsticks, and ice storms that knocked out power for two weeks. Bridge closures could happen at any time, leaving us bound to our island. In Tacoma, I endured a 6.8 magnitude earthquake and watched as neighbors in the shadow of Mount Rainier battled floods — and the occasional threat the mountain might blow or send a cascading wall of mud and rocks hurdling toward hundreds of thousands of people. Emergency preparation became a part of daily life. We had emergency packs in our cars, bottled water at home, and enough food secured to get us through three to four days on our own. We didn’t stock up for long-term isolation, or go survivalist, but we went through the emergency drill from time to time just to make sure we’d be ready. Returning to California a few years ago lulled me into laziness toward emergency preparation, and the mindset that comes with knowing we may need to be on our own for 72 hours or longer. And while our building standards are exponentially greater than those in Haiti, seeing the horrific images from last week’s quake reminds me a bigger temblor could strike California at any time. Rather than sending relief aid to Port-au-Prince, we could be collecting clothes, shoes and food for people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose or Santa Cruz. And the disaster could be closer to home. Floods are a reality in the Sacramento Valley. Wildfires, as we saw so clearly on Aug. 30, can change our lives in a matter of minutes. If emergency preparedness is a new concept, use this week as a time to get better acquainted with it. With all this rain falling, you’ll have some extra time. Visit the American Red Cross Web site at redcross.org and click on the “Preparing and Getting Trained” tab. You’ll find all the useful information you’ll need to be prepared at home, work and school. You’ll learn the value of an escape plan. You’ll see that an emergency kit can be assembled from stuff in your closet and pantry. You’ll understand the value of an emergency card for every member in your family. You’ll realize how quickly your world can turn upside down, just as the people in Haiti are enduring right now. And while you’re there, consider a financial donation to the Red Cross. The organization was one of the first on the scene at the 49 Fire, and they’re one of many on the ground in Haiti offering relief to millions of displaced and desperate Haitians. So, as we’re dodging drips and fallen limbs this week, let the rain teach us a lesson in being prepared for something bigger, something more serious. Something we can’t predict but know could happen without warning.