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  • 2016: A Year in Review

    2016_amatrice_earthquake A Year In Review Amatrice, a town in Italy, destroyed by the earthquake. Photo: Leggi il Firenzepost

    Raise your hand if you’re glad 2016 is about over. The year was so tumultuous that a magnitude 6.2 earthquake that killed at least 299 people in central Italy didn’t even make most U.S. news organizations’ lists of important events. (Neither did a magnitude-6.6  earthquake on October 30 that destroyed more towns in the same area.) In this Year in Review, we look at some of the more devastating events that happened in 2016.

    Disaster declarations began early in the year.

    On January 5, the governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency in Flint, Mich., because of lead-contaminated water. It was a man-made disaster. In 2014, the city manager decided to switch the city’s water supply to the Flint River. The more-corrosive water was not correctly treated and caused lead to leach out of thousands of miles of old pipes. After a year of cleanup, many Flint residents still can’t use tap water.

    A massive winter storm hit eleven eastern states beginning January 22. It dumped more than 30 inches of snow on seven states, caused six tornadoes, affected 103 million people and killed 55. Damage estimates range from $500 million to $3 billion.

    A seemingly-mild virus carried by a tiny mosquito next took over global headlines. The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on February 1. In most people, Zika causes few to no symptoms – maybe a mild rash or fever. However, in pregnant women, Zika can cause microcephaly other brain defects in their unborn children.  The first U.S. death from Zika was announced April 1, and the virus spread to Florida in July.

    March brought the first of many terrorist attacks this year in a reminder to be vigilant even in seemingly safe places. On the 22nd, two suicide bombers attacked the Brussels, Belgium airport and a third attacked a Brussels Metro station. Thirty-five people were killed, including the three bombers, and at least 300 were injured. More terror attacks brought violence to France, Germany and many other nations.

    On April 3, the Panama Papers were released. More than 11 million documents showed, first, how the wealthy hide their money from taxes, and second, sent a reminder to protect your own information. Yahoo in July and December announced two more security breaches of 500 million and a billion accounts.

    Leaving Fort McMurray A Year In Review Wildfires raged in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

    In May, 88,000 people fled a wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. The fire caused the largest evacuation in Alberta history and destroyed about 2,400 buildings. It might be Canada’s costliest disaster.

    In June, voters in the United Kingdom surprised everyone by voting to leave the European Union. Brexit roiled financial markets and served as a reminder that individual financial preparation is especially vital in a global economy.

    Even last year’s El Nino was not enough to break California’s staggering drought. Wildfires raged through the parched state in June and July. The Erskine fire alone killed two people and destroyed 285 homes. In all, the 2016 fire season saw almost 7,000 fires in California burn more than 565,000 acres and kill seven people.

    A July 30 flash flood in Maryland was only a harbinger of flooding to come. Massive storms across southern Louisiana in early August dumped more rain than Hurricane Katrina. Floods killed 13 people and caused $10-15 billion in damage. It was the worst disaster since Hurricane Sandy.

    And, oh, yes, there was a pretty big earthquake in Italy. In certain parts of the world, you expect certain things. You expect earthquakes in Italy and California. You expect tornadoes in Oklahoma. You expect hurricanes in Florida. Oh, wait. Hurricane Hermine, which made landfall in Florida September 2, was the first hurricane to hit the state in 11 years. It was a spitball compared with Hurricane Matthew, a category 5 monster that, in October, killed up to 1,600 people in Haiti and more throughout the Caribbean before making its final landfall in South Carolina. Damage is estimated at more than $10.5 billion.

    In November, some tiny country somewhere rejected a divisive mainstream candidate for a divisive outsider in its presidential election. Who knows what effect President-elect Donald Trump will have? Best be prepared for anything.

    Finally, December. And a Christmas winter storm that blasted through the central U.S.

    And don’t forget Super Typhoon Nock-ten, which slammed the Philippines the same day. Or the magnitude 7.6 earthquake in southern Chile that threatened a tsunami.

    May next year be a bit more peaceful for you, your family, and the world.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner A Year In Reveiw

  • This Christmas Season, Work Together to be Prepared


    Christmas is a time of giving and reaching out to others. People from all over have others on their minds as they search for the perfect gift for their family and friends. Homeless shelters see a surge in service from local community members during this time, as does other charitable giving.

    When it comes to emergency preparedness, reaching out to others is just as important. Just as you might donate your time or resources to charities, working with family, friends, and neighbors in times of disaster helps strengthen them in areas in which you yourself are strong. And, as Flora Edwards once said, “In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever mood we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.”

    Think about it. A four-legged chair is much more stable than a monopod stool. By yourself, you can get by and support yourself. But, if somebody tries to push you off your stool, they will most likely succeed. If you’re sitting on a chair and someone tries to push you off, the base underneath you is much more solid and will give you a better chance at standing your ground.

    The same thing goes for emergency preparedness. Working with your neighbors, friends, and family gives you a support group in which each person brings different skills and services to the table. A neighbor with a chainsaw will be a valuable asset when the next storm blows over your trees. Also, your truck can help haul away debris from your neighbor’s home.

    When you prepare for emergencies, think about how your preparations can help others. Your emergency food supply is more than just for disasters. Maybe your neighbor just lost his job. By having some extra food on hand, you could either invite them over for a meal to help them out, or give it to them with a smile. And who knows? Maybe the next time you have your own personal disaster, your neighbor will come to your aid.

    In the spirit of Christmas, take some time and visit your neighbors. Bring them cookies or a card. Thank them for their contributions to the community. Get to know them. Then, as the new year approaches, make it a goal to become acquainted with other members of your community. Building strong relationships will not just benefit your life now, but will also help you succeed when times get tough.



  • How the Chapecoense Soccer Team Disaster Promotes Emergency Planning

    columbia-plane-crash via CNN Columbia plane crash - via CNN

    On November 29, 2016 an airplane crash in Colombia killed 71 people, including 19 players and other staff from the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense. The few players aboard who survived the crash suffered horrific injuries, according to The Economist.

    The risk of losing players in a mass accident is a nightmare of every major United States sports organization.

    "All I can say is that, yes, we have a plan," MLB spokesman Richard Levin told ESPN reporter Wayne Drehs. "But God forbid it should ever be needed."

    Still, every major American sports league has a disaster plan in case players are lost. Families and businesses can learn from their plans.

    Start by developing a disaster plan. According to ESPN, the National Football League has a policy giving detailed directions for how to rebuild a team in the event of a “disaster” or “near-disaster.” A disaster means an accident in which at least 15 players are lost. A near-disaster means fewer than 15 players are lost.

    Family Disaster PlanAs you’re making the plan, write it down. Include directions for many different scenarios: how to evacuate during a fire; sheltering in place during a storm or power outage; emergency contact information for everyone to carry in case of separation. The NFL emergency player replacement policy is codified under Administrative/Business Operations, according to ESPN. In a near-disaster, teams would finish the season, and they would have the highest priority on players waived from other teams. If the quarterback was lost, the team could draft another from a team with three quarterbacks on the roster.

    In a disaster, the NFL commissioner would decide whether or not to continue the team’s season. If so, the near-disaster plan would come into effect. If not, the team would get a restocking draft in the offseason and the first pick in the NFL draft.

    In Major League Baseball, and other sports leagues, money to rebuild teams would come from disaster insurance, according to USA Today.

    Federal law requires people living in certain flood-prone areas to have flood insurance. It’s a good idea to have flood insurance anyway, as well as homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

    Insurance is useful for possessions, but caring for and safeguarding people is most important.

    Chapecoense had captured the hearts of the South American with its Cinderella-like ascent from the fourth division to the first, and its unlikely climb to the final of the Copa Sudamericana, a South American club tournament. (The team members were killed on the way to the tournament’s final.) In a city of 180,000 people, 100,000 people filled the stadium for a mass funeral. The South American soccer governing body awarded the Copa Sudamericana trophy and its $2 million prize to Chapecoense. The Brazilian soccer federation added another gift of $1.46 million. Other Brazilian teams offered to loan players for free, and at least one famous player, Eidur Gudjohnsen, offered to join the team, according to The Economist.

    “First and foremost, the plan must cover the steps needed to protect employees, customers, vendors, visitors and those in the surrounding areas,” wrote Robert A. Ernst, a writer and safety expert, in EHS Today, a news organization for health and safety workers in manufacturing, construction and the service industry.

    In the National Hockey League, if a team lost at least five players, it can rebuild its roster by buying player contracts from other teams, according to its Emergency Rehabilitation Plan described in USA Today. If it doesn’t get a goalie and 14 skaters, the league will hold a draft of players from other teams. The affected team may get up to two goalies and 18 other players from other teams that didn’t sell the team any player contracts. The team can’t take more than one player from another team.

    If at least five players “die or are dismembered,” the National Basketball Association calls for a Disaster Draft, according to ESPN. Other teams can “protect” five players, and the affected team may pick one unprotected player from other teams,

    In a disaster, it’s vital to work together and rely on others, Ernst said.

    “Remember to contact neighboring businesses when developing your plan. They may have something to offer in the way of support in case of an emergency. In fact, they may be among the first responders to your facility,” he said.

    Ready.gov recommends you include an out of area contact for your family, so if communication is out in a disaster area, your family members might still be able to tell someone they’re safe.

    Disaster planning isn’t easy. But tragedies like the Chapecoense plane crash can remind sports teams – and families and businesses – that emergency planning will help them recover faster and help people involved.



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