COLUMN: Learning to be self-reliant

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I took part in an exercise last fall sponsored by the Perry County Local Emergency Planning Committee, a behind-the-scenes group that gathers information on potentially hazardous chemicals in the county. The group also prepares response plans to spills, explosions and other emergencies.

The group’s fall exercise centered on the impacts of an earthquake and the local response that would follow. As we’ve all heard time and again, our area is susceptible to a major quake. The people at the session included paramedics and health-care providers, representatives of police and fire departments, elected officials and members of local industry.

The point I took away from the day was how many of us would have to be reliant upon each other and ourselves to cope for days or even weeks after a wide-scale disaster. We’ve all seen images from the quake a year ago in Haiti. I can’t really imagine something like that happening here, but it’s true that an earthquake could do serious damage to buildings, cut power and pretty much shut down ordinary life for a long time. Local, state and even federal governments would offer aid, but it might take days to arrive. How would we cope in the first hours and days? Tough decisions would have to be made.

The people handling medical emergencies would have to decide who they could treat and who they couldn’t. None of likes to think that in a nation as mighty as ours, we wouldn’t be able to give everyone the help they need, but in the wake of such a disaster there would not be enough help to go around. Those of us with minor injuries would have be left to cope on our own. Those with little or no chance of survival might not be helped at all.

In times of the most dire need, hard choices have to be made.
Many of us would be responsible for our own welfare as far as food and water.

Those of us with ties to the soil, farmers and gardeners, would be best able to cope. I suspect a good number of homes have emergency kits with bottled water and nonperishable food. Mine is not one of them and I’d be forced to rely on the charity of others.

We live in a community where people look after one another and I know that in the event of an earthquake or other calamity, we would share what we had. I’ve seen winter storms when people opened their doors to others or went to temporary shelters to deliver blankets and food.

Like you, I’ve grumbled at the lack of heat or hot water, but I wonder, how would I cope if power was cut for weeks instead of days?

Maybe none of us will see such a disaster in our lifetimes. I hope we don’t. But we know calamities can befall us, whether natural disaster, some flu pandemic or some large accident.

We all need to plan, at home, school and work, for the unexpected. Self-reliance can be a virtue and those who are best prepared will be most able to give help to others in need.