MBC

SWALLOWED by the Dragon, Part 3

Utah being an established earthquake zone is a given. There are numerous resources one can turn to in order to educate oneself on the subject. THE GREAT UTAH SHAKEOUT provided by www.SHAKEOUT.org listed some excellent scenarios just to name one. Utah.gov has a “Be Ready Utah” site set aside specifically to answer questions and help people get prepared for an imminent disaster.

In talking to locals in the Wasatch Front, most are aware they live in an earthquake zone but bury that knowledge beneath more immediate challenges and pray the future never comes. Will I lose my job? Can I pay my bills next month? Are more important concerns than repeated warnings about terrorism, earthquakes and floods. So what keeps people stuck?

Environmental psychology professor Robert Grifford calls the psychological barrier that prevents people from preparing for disasters such as earthquakes the “dragon of inaction.” He suggests there are 30 dragons of inaction that inhabit people’s minds and these seven keep individuals from getting ready for a natural calamity such as an earthquake:

  • The dragon of uncertainty. It often justifies inaction or postponed action.
  • The dragon of judgmental discounting. A disaster will happen later, or elsewhere, so there’s no need to do anything.
  • The dragon of habit. This beastie is also known as Behavioral Momentum. Many habitual behaviors are resistant to change, or change slowly.
  • The dragon of conflicting goals. This is also known as “I have other more important/immediate things to do.”
  • The dragon of optimism bias. “It won’t happen, at least to me, at least not soon anyway.”
  • The dragon of tokenism. People take the easiest steps to prepare for disaster rather than the most effective.
  • The dragon of conformity. If no one else in your neighborhood is preparing for an earthquake, you likely won’t either.

How does one get woken up from this lethargy? Scared straight is one idea. This approach has worked for some health concerns, such as the anti-smoking campaign. Bringing risk into the here and now, but be careful not to overdo it. Save Armageddon for the movies.

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SWALLOWED by the Dragon, Part 2

Thank you for the feedback Utah. It appears a vast majority of folks in the Wasatch couldn’t be bothered with the subject of PREPAREDNESS. Even a disaster such as the ones in Haiti, Christ Church, New Zealand, or Sumatra do not send fellow Utahans to local Emergency Essentials outlets to pick up emergency preparedness kits.

At the risk of repeating myself, the “rules” for preparedness over the course of a 72 hour period are quite simple:

  • People should prepare for natural disasters by keeping an emergency kit in their home, car, and workplace.
  • Each person should have enough water, food, and items such as a battery-powered radio, blankets, and extra clothing to be self-sufficient for 72 hours after an emergency.
  • Families should devise a plan covering how members will contact each other if they’re separated when a disaster happens.
  • Families should agree in advance on a meeting place and an out-of-area contact person to whom they can report that they are safe.
  • Take a first aid course, including CPR.
  • Know the safe and dangerous places in your home.

Did you know that Utah averages nearly 500 earthquakes per year (magnitude over 1.5 – 473 last year)? I was stunned, as I had no idea. Perhaps like myself, you may have heard that it has been 1300 years since the Wasatch range had a major earthquake and the chances for one soon are very high. Yet most Utahans do not have earthquake insurance and believe they are financially prepared for one.

This “dragon of inaction” could be a mistake. Scientists believe over 80% of the population would be impacted by a 7.0 earthquake and the Wasatch Front faces a 1-in-7 chance of that being a reality within the next 40 years. What would it look like? Consider a three to nine foot “curb” running right through Salt Lake City and beyond, approximately three thousand people would die, 50,000 would be injured and there would be nearly $35 billion in damages.

Imagine if you will the population of Ogden being displaced and needing public shelter as over 30% of the buildings were damaged beyond repair. Fires could be widespread and emergency personnel would be so overwhelmed it may take days before they could reach some areas of destruction. Power and water could be out for weeks. Oh, and that little gadget that you have in your hand that has become nearly an appendage, communication systems would be out for weeks, if not months, let alone other necessities we come to rely on.

We just passed the tenth anniversary of the 9.3-magnitude quake and tsunami that killed over a quarter of a million people. Scientists claim that what happened in Sumatra in December 2004 will happen in North America beyond any reasonable doubt. How about you, do you believe it could happen in the Wasatch Front? If so, what are you doing to prepare yourself (and your neighbors)?

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SWALLOWED by the Dragon

ANY one else out there who believes that their token preparation for the Big One is inadequate? This tokenism is what I call the “dragon of inaction” – a psychological barrier that prevents people from preparing for disasters such as earthquakes.

If one were to poll an authority on earthquakes, there is a long held belief that a mega-quake through the Wasatch is immanent. This sleeping monster’s destructive power is reported to be one of the biggest America will have seen to date.

While some businesses, local governments, and locals have made some plans to cope with natural disasters, truth is, most are sitting on their hands. What is this dragon of denial that keeps Utah’s citizens from getting prepared? While the next major disaster may not be the Big One, the likelihood of having to deal with a major disaster in your lifetime is pretty high.

Local corporations have done a good job in educating people about disasters, but most folks in the Wasatch do not even have a basic plan. There a number of websites and readily available social media sites pumping out information, but short of having some bottled water, people are more apathetic than ever.

What thoughts do you have on the subject? Are you prepared? Are corporations doing the best they can to provide you with the information you need? We will discuss your answers and talk more about preparedness in Part 2.

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Muscle Memory in Emergency Preparedness

Ever heard the slogan: “Prefect practice makes perfect”?

With last year’s disaster in Japan and others including the Joplin, MO tornado and the BP oil disaster, the supposed “end times” coming up in December, more people bring up disaster preparedness. Some circles live with a preparedness awareness. For members of the Latter Day Saints faith community preparedness has been talked about for years especially centered around having a year’s worth of food and water storage.

One aspect of awareness that gets over looked is the actual practice of practice disaster drills. Think about fire drills at work and school. They can be very disruptive but if a fire broke out there do you know what to do? Can you do it in near automation mode? If the answer is yes then you know why drills are important. It is similar to “muscle memory” in exercise.

There are many good preparedness blogs though one of the best for the average person could be from one that survived Katrina and posted about the experience with worksheets on his blog, “Listening to Katrina.” He gives a great outline on getting prepared in your own region.

A key component of preparedness is practice. Consider having a drill every six months on getting out of the house in one minute or packing the car for evacuation in an hour. Turn off the power and see if you can hook up the generator if you have one or just see how you would manage without power or water one weekend. These practices can be as short or as long as your family wants to tolerate.

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FREQUENTLY Asked Questions on Water Storage

Question: How much water should I store?
Answer: Water is your most important supply during an emergency. The amount of water a person needs will depend upon age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate. One gallon per person, per day for drinking, food preparation and hygiene should be stored with your emergency supplies. For example, a minimum of 56 gallons of water should be stored for a family of four for two weeks.

A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.

Question: Can water be rationed if supplies are low?
Answer: Never ration water. If supplies run low, drink the amount you need today and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.

Try to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don’t stock salty foods, since they make you thirsty. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.

Question: Does our hot climate mean I should store more water?
Answer: A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day; however, hot environments can double the amount of water required. Reduce your activity and stay as cool as possible to minimize the amount of water needed to stay hydrated.

What is the best way to store water?

If possible, purchase bottled water and keep it sealed until ready to use. You can also store water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances.

Plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, are best. You can purchase food-grade (FDA) plastic buckets or 55 gallon drums from MBC Inc. Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Rotate water based on expiration dates on bottles or every six months.

What can I do to improve the taste of stored or boiled water?

Stored or boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring it back and forth between two containers.

What if we run out of water?

There are hidden sources of water in your home. You can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes, and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).

How to use water in your pipes: Shut water off to your house. Let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from a faucet located at the lowest point in the house.

How to use hot-water tank water: Be sure the electricity or gas is off before draining the hot-water tank. Open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty.

Be sure to purify water from outside natural sources before drinking it. Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. You should not drink floodwater.

When should the water into the home be shut off?

If you hear reports of broken water lines or sewage leaks turn off the incoming water valve to prevent contaminating the water in your pipes and hot-water tank.

When does water need to be purified?

Water of uncertain purity should be purified before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene. Contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.

How do I purify water?

There are several ways to purify water and none of them are perfect. The best solution is to use a combination of purifying methods. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.

1. Boiling – Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute. Some water will evaporate. Let water cool before drinking.

Boiling water will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.

2. Disinfection – Chlorine water purifying tablets or household liquid bleach will kill most microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.
Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.

Is there really an expiration date on water?

Studies show sterilized or disinfected water, stored in clean, food-approved containers with secure lids or caps should be safe for use even after many years of storage. Replacement of stored water with fresh water should be necessary only if the stored water becomes contaminated in some way or if the container should begin to leak. Be certain to label each container so there will be no question about its contents. Include the date and information on the method of disinfection used. We recommend changing properly stored water every three to five years.

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