As I write this, my colleague and her family, including her one-year-old grandson, are hunkered down in an evacuation location pending the arrival of Irma. She is hearing what I am hearing – that it has lessened in its intensity and that it should be through her area sometime today. Because her location is shuttered she has no visibility on what is out there – a rather off-setting experience, one akin to the nightmares of many:  isolation, a cataclysmic event and an unknown outcome. At least her adversary is most likely property damage rather than zombies. This hurricane season has hit the United States hard, and colleagues who live and work in the Houston area were safe, but are now dealing with the aftermath of Harvey. Florida is just beginning to wake up to the aftermath of Irma, and our colleagues and friends there will be dealing with these same issues.

One of the Many Lessons from 9/11

It is fitting to note on this day that the system of support that is providing the help and assistance to the residents of these states came out of the lessons learned as the result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Our incident command and emergency management systems, solidified coming out of 9/11 and honed by Katrina have kept many safe in the intervening years. But, as members of our communities, we too have responsibilities to assure our safety. Regardless of whether you are coastal, with hurricanes or earthquakes, in the Midwest with tornadoes and snow, or near a variety of any other potential emergency situations – your safety relies upon your planning and resilience.

Daily Preparedness

There are things that we all can incorporate into our daily lives. There is a lot of good information available for hurricane preparedness and for general preparedness. We just have to incorporate these fundamentals into our daily lives. Basic things – like keeping your gas tank full (especially helpful on those mornings when you’re running late!); having a “stash kit” in your car with water, thermal blankets, batteries, a solar phone charger and protein bars and nuts; and having cash on hand – are a good start.

I keep the medication used by family members in a sealable plastic box; it is grab-and-go in the event of an emergency. It is recommended to keep a go back with a jacket, warm clothing and additional shoes. The same for a supply of pet food and the leash for my dog – she is going with me. For those who had to make a decision about leaving a pet, even placing them in the closet with food and water is a best option amidst a horrible situation.

Resilience in Tragedy

In the days to come, the media will reiterate the stories of those who, despite the orders to evacuate, chose to stay. We will learn of the deaths of others. Already, a public safety worker was reported killed returning from working. My colleague in Florida paid attention to the warnings and stockpiled water, batteries, food, plywood and a crank radio. When it seemed that the storm would hit her location hard, she altered her plans, recognizing the importance of a secure location for her and her family. For my end, I am glad to hear my colleague and her family are safe. Her grandson thinks it’s a party – and that is the true sign of resiliency. We cannot change what Mother Nature throws at us, but we can be prepared and make sure our attitudes allow us to survive and thrive.

I know the days following Harvey, and those to come after Irma, will tax our emergency response system and our public safety workers. I want to say thank you – to those who kept my friends and colleagues safe and for the work you will be required to do in upcoming days. Resilience is more than a planning point – it is the ability to lean forward even in the face of destruction and chaos.