Sunday, September 11, 2016

#NatlPrep: Disaster Buddies

Note: This is day 11  of National Preparedness Month . Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.

This month, as part of NPM15, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.

# 11,728

When people who know me ask what the #1 thing they should have during any emergency, I never hesitate to answer “Have  one or more Disaster Buddies.  

People you trust, to whom you can turn to for help (and they to you) during any emergency or disaster. 

One of the ironies of our increasingly connected world is that our closest friends need not live anywhere near us.  Facebook, Twitter, email, and texting have allowed us to interact at a distance as never before.  And during a disaster, that can be both a problem and a blessing.

  • The blessing is that since many disasters are local, if you are hit by a tornado, or an earthquake, or a flood . . . having friends outside the impact area could be a lifesaver.
  • The downside, of course, is that increasing distance makes getting direct assistance from a friend during an emergency more difficult. 

In 2007, when H5N1 loomed as a pandemic threat,  I began to promote the idea of each of us having, and being a, `Flu Buddy’.  I fleshed out the idea in a 2008 blog called Lifelines In A Pandemic.  

A `Flu Buddy’ is simply someone you can call if you get sick, who will then check on you every day, make sure you have the medicines you need (including fetching Tamiflu if appropriate), help care for you if needed, and who can call for medical help if your condition deteriorates.
Those people who care for others, like single parents, also need to consider who will take care of their dependents if they are sick.
Nearly 1 person in 10 in the United States lives alone.  That’s roughly 27 million people who are particularly vulnerable during an epidemic.  Add in single households with small children, or adult children taking care of elderly parents, and the number of `short-handed’ households goes up considerably.
I returned to this theme often during the 2009 pandemic, including Pandemic Solutions: Flu Buddies,  UK: Call To Appoint Swine `Flu Friends’ and Canada Urges People To Find `Flu Buddies’.
After the 2009 pandemic ended I reworked the idea into a more generic `Disaster Buddy’ concept in a 2010 blog called  In An Emergency, Who Has Your Back?.  

While we tend to think of disasters as large scale events, it doesn’t take a pandemic, earthquake, or hurricane to put you in perilous straits.   Big disasters are rare, but thousands of small ones happen every day. 
A house fire, car accident, or sudden illness can easily overwhelm, so having a pre-existing support system makes a lot of sense.
And the best way I know is by arranging to have (and to be) a `Disaster Buddy’.
A `Disaster Buddy’ is simply someone you that you can call on during a crisis, and who in turn, can call on you if they need help.
Frankly, having (and being) a `Disaster Buddy’ to friends, neighbors, and relatives should be part of everyone’s family disaster plan.
No one likes to impose on a friend, of course.

But if you’ve already established a `disaster buddy’ relationship  – one that is fair and reciprocal – it shouldn’t be considered an imposition.
In the parlance of paramedics, cops, firefighters and the military . . .  you have their back, and in return, they have yours.”
It is a simple concept, but one that needs to be ironed out in advance, not simply assumed.

While some people invest in a stockpile of freeze dried food, or buy the latest survival  gadgets, and think themselves prepared   . . .  having friends you can really depend on in an emergency is the greatest prep of all.

It is also worth mentioning that there has never been a better time to volunteer to help with the American Red Cross, The Medical Reserve Corps, CERT, or your Neighborhood watch.
We are truly only prepared as our friends, families, and surrounding community are.  There are roles to play for everyone, including civic organizations, schools, and church. 
Now - before a disaster occurs - is the time to sit down and talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about how you will help one another during a personal or community wide crisis. 
As this year’s theme says -  Don’t Wait. Communicate.
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