Friday, January 30, 2009

Being Prepared - Volcanoes

Having been both a Cub Scout Den Leader and a Girl Scout Leader, I know the importance of "Being Prepared." As a Girl Scout leader I regularly took classes from the Red Cross in First Aid and CPR, which also emphasized the importance of being trained and prepared. I also grew up in the 1950's when civil defense was a priority. In school, we practiced tornado drills, fire drills, and nuclear bomb drills (yes, we really did - although what good ducking under our desk would do in case of a nuclear attack still escapes me.) Buildings marked with a triangle were fallout shelters that were supposed to be stocked with food and supplies. At the time, it felt like a very real danger, but the emphasis was on being prepared if something happened.

I think one of the things that I've done subconsciously over time is to look at the natural disasters as they occur around me (floods, tornadoes, etc) and to see where they caused the damage and why. When unexpected things occur, we have to have thought about where to go for safety, what things do we take with us, what will we need, etc. Having some kind of mental plan can sometimes make the difference between life and death. In the past, you could go to your local county extension agent and pick up brochures and flyers to learn how to prepare for emergencies. Now, in the internet world, the information is readily available at your finger tips.

While I don't live near a volcano, I found Actions to take for Ashfall from the United States Geological Survey interesting reading.

FEMA's What to do during a volcanic eruption also has good information.

Anchorage, Alaska's Office of Emergency Management Volcanic Ash Informaion

State of Alaska - Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notes that since the 1700's forty one volcanes have erupted in Alaska and some of them have erupted more than 25 times.

Why am I posting all these links? When an emergency strikes, sometimes our body goes into overdrive and we don't think as clearly . . . we panic. If we have at least read about what to do when (fill in the blank), then some of it will be filed in our brains and we are more likely to have an instinctive reaction that will propel us to safety than if we are totally ignorant about what to do.

The Red Cross has a page that is good for being prepared for any emergency. One of the important things I noticed was being aware of your area. Early in my years here in Austin, a lady from my church drowned in her car in a swollen creek. Being from the Texas Panhandle where flooding was not a regular event, I wondered how that could have happened, until I drove over to the site where it happened. Since then, I've been more aware of where the roads in my area are most likely to flood.


Henry Melton said...

Mary Ann, the nuclear duck-and-cover has gotten a lot of jokes and bad rep, because no one really understands it -- other than those civil defense guys who invented it. Take a look back at the injuries in Japan. Some people, a few, were killed by the blast and radiation, but many many were horribly burned by the flash of the explosion. Many times all it took was just to be behind a wall or out of sight of the flash. Ducking under the desk could make the difference between life-long disfiguring burns and being evacuated with little or no injuries. As with most jokes about by-gone era's, you really have to know what's going on to appreciate it.

Mary Ann Melton said...

Thanks, Henry. Thankfully, that part of history is just that, history . . .it has been so long ago, I had forgotten the reasoning behind the drill. I have such vivid memories of the photos and film of the initial nuclear tests where the houses were just blown away and totally destroyed by the blast that I was not thinking about the same survival tactics that I look for with other disasters.