How many times have you read about an emergency or natural disaster and thought “that wouldn’t happen in my area”?
This type of thinking leads many people to believe they only need emergency kits and emergency plans for major disasters. However, we also need to prepare for smaller, unexpected emergencies that sometimes occur more often.
Stories from the past few months have taught us two valuable lessons:
- Mother Nature doesn’t follow rules; the unexpected can happen to anyone.
- Even the smallest of events can become larger disasters due to poor planning and lack of preparation.
Prepare for Winter Weather—Even if it’s Unlikely
At the beginning of December, unexpected snow storms and freezing temperatures stranded over 300 people for 7+ hours on a stretch of Interstate 15 between the Utah/Las Vegas border.
Freezing temperatures and snow are rare in the area, so many travelers were unprepared. They had little food or water, few items to keep warm (many only had clothing for a day at the pool), and only a little gas in their tanks. What’s typically considered an hour’s drive quickly became an unexpected emergency. Luckily there were no major injuries reported.
In January, many parts of the U.S. experienced another unexpected phenomenon that was dubbed a Polar Vortex. As we learned from WeatherChannel.com meterologist, Nice Wiltgen, the term ‘artic outbreak’ is a more accurate term than ‘polar vortex’ to describe the dramatic cooling effect the Midwestern and eastern portions of the U.S. are currently experiencing. So this Polar Vortex is a new name for an ancient phenomenon, causing cities that usually don’t see below freezing temperatures to see record-breaking lows and snowfall.
The so-called Polar Vortex altered the everyday lives of thousands: several areas faced school closures, blackouts, flooding from frozen pipes, injuries, and deaths even occurred.
While it may have been hard to predict the impact storm near Las Vegas or of the Polar Vortex, these events illustrate the need to prepare and plan for winter emergencies (even if you live in the South).
What can we learn from these emergencies?
If you are adequately prepared, unexpected emergencies will be less likely to turn your life upside down. The Ready Campaign suggests these three steps to prepare for any emergency you might face:
- Make a plan: Make a plan with your family for a number of situations—big and small. You can plan for house fires, power outages, and even major disasters like earthquakes. Don’t forget to plan for unique situations for your area and climate, as well.
- Build a Kit: Based on your planning, build or purchase emergency kits for your home, car, workplace, and school. These kits should fit the personal needs of your family. Also, you should always have a car emergency kit—especially while traveling
- Stay informed: Learn from the experience of others. Plan for unexpected emergencies before they happen, stay informed on weather conditions in your area, and adapt your emergency kits for situations like the ones mentioned in this post. Don’t slip into the thought process of “it won’t happen to me”.
It’s important to prepare for unexpected emergencies. Good planning and preparation can help us avoid minor annoyances or major health concerns in crisis situations. As you plan for possible emergencies, avoid the mentality of “that won’t happen” and change it to “whatever happens, I’ll be ready.”
Have you ever been stuck in an unexpected emergency or snowstorm? What did you do? What do you wish you had?
KSL News article: "Motorists trapped by snowstorm on Arizona Strip"
Preparedness Pantry Blog: "The Polar Vortex--What are the Consequences?"
BeReady.gov: “Make a Plan. Get a Kit. Be Informed”