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  • The Burning Man Festival as an Emergency Situation Example

    Burning Man 01

     

    Burning Man Traffice - via Slate Traffic at Burning Man - via Slate

    Every year, the week before Labor Day, Black Rock City becomes the sixth largest city in Nevada. This ephemeral city, which exists solely for the Burning Man arts festival, deals with the same issues of any 70,000-person city: traffic control and traffic jams, water and sanitation, power, health care and law enforcement. It has a large central coffee house, neighborhoods and postal service, many art installations, a wooden temple and loads of bars and entertainment venues, some of which are mobile. And of course it has its namesake: a giant, wooden statue of a man that’s destroyed by fire every year.

    Its temporary residents have problems people in no other midsize city face except during a disaster. At the end of the festival, the city must disappear like it never existed. Its residents must provide their own necessities: homes, food, water, sanitation and power. In fact, the only things available to buy are coffee drinks and ice. Internet and phone service is minimal to nonexistent. The city provides portable toilets but not showers. The nearest supermarket and gas station are nine miles away and jammed. There are no trash cans. All trash – even cigarette butts and wash water – must be stored and removed at the end of the week. Every bit of infrastructure is trucked in on the narrow highway beforehand and trucked out afterward if it’s not deliberately burned during the week. (Even debris from burned installations must be removed and the ground raked over.)

    Burning Man as seen from above Burning Man as seen from above

    Access to this town 120 miles from Reno, Nev. is possible by a two-lane highway or a temporary airport. Its residents face the extreme weather conditions of the desert: temperatures that range from less than 40 degrees at night to more than 100 degrees during the day, bone-dry, shade-free landscape and windstorms of alkali silt that block the sun and hinder breathing. The alkali dust causes playa foot, a chemical burn on the skin that can cause infection, according to attendee Bee Joli Shah, writing in Allure.

    “The first thing you have to know about Burning Man is it is all about survival, both as a 70,000 person community, and as an individual. That might sound a little scary, okay, it might sound a lot scary,” wrote former attendee Jennifer Maas for Hollywood Life.

    They’ve made it work for 30 years by practicing 10 principles codified in 2004. These principles are helpful in any emergency situation and include Radical Self-reliance, Participation, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility and Gifting.

    “The Black Rock Desert is trying its best to kill you. As ‘Radical Self-Reliance’ is one of Burning Man’s core principles, it is YOUR responsibility to see to it that it doesn’t.” the Burning Man web site said.

    Check out this list of required items for Burning Man participants. Notice how closely it resembles lists of supplies for 72-hour kits. Dust masks and goggles are necessary, as is some first aid training. Those are also useful in any disaster situation.

    This year, six people were injured, and one was airlifted out, when their theme camp collapsed. More common injuries include infection, playa foot, heat illness and substance abuse.

    A really good guide for Burning Man attendees is also useful for emergency preparedness, telling, among other things, how to set up ad hoc power systems and manage water.

    Former attendees recommend wet wipes and vinegar for cleaning, because the vinegar’s acidity can cut the alkalinity of the dust. Vinegar is a good cleaning and preserving agent for an emergency too.

    burning man-exodus-2-line - via Burners Burning Man Exodus traffic - via Burners

    Burning Man organizers tell attendees to fill up with gas in larger towns and make sure their tank is mostly full before they arrive, so they won’t have to fill up during the long wait to leave. This year, attendees had to wait up to nine hours in their cars after law enforcement stopped traffic to search for a missing 17-year-old girl. Even during normal departure times, called “Exodus,” people wait six to eight hours just to leave the area, according to event organizers. Organizers have a plan that entails moving groups in hour-plus intervals and turning vehicles off during the wait period.

    “Fill up on gas frequently and consider bringing a small gas can. There are very few gas stations on the 90-mile stretch between Fernley and Black Rock City,” attendee Melanie Curtin wrote for Inc.

    The Federal Emergency Management also recommends keeping a car’s gas tank full in case of any emergency evacuation.

    A major part of Burning Man is gifting, providing gifts to anyone, without thought of recompense or the size of the gift. Participants are also encouraged to volunteer and work together. In a disaster, people who have the things they need will be able to help others.

    Burning Man attendees must be prepared, or they can be turned away, according to Maas.

    “Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise, and rely on his or her inner resources,” the organization’s web site says. “You are responsible for your own survival, safety, comfort, and well-being, and for Leaving No Trace.”

    That can be true in any place, in any life event.

     

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  • A Prepper's Valentine: Give the Gift of Preparedness

    Valentine Flower Power Give your loved one power over emergencies this Valentine's Day

    When I was in college, every Valentine’s Day I wore a button: “Flowers wilt. Candy melts. Send money.”

    Since then, I’ve realized that money goes away even faster than flowers or candy (actually, the rate at which my money vanishes is proof of both black holes and the existence of faster-than-light travel).

    So what’s a Valentine’s Day gift with staying power? How about a gift that shows your concern for your loved one’s well-being: the gift of emergency preparedness.

    Here are some gift ideas from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Many of those ideas can be found here at beprepared.com.

     

    • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
    • Books, coloring books, crayons, and board games, so kids will have something to do.
    • Personal hygiene comfort kit, including shampoo, body wash, wash cloth, hairbrush, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.
    • An emergency kit, like a waterproof pouch or backpack, that contains such things as a rain poncho, moist towelettes, work gloves, batteries, duct tape, whistle and food bars, as well as any of the above items.

     

    Also, when you’re having your lovey-dovey conversations, consider what readycolorado.com calls the one of the most important: developing an emergency plan for your family.

    First, develop a family communication plan. Ready.gov has templates for communication plans. They tell ways to communicate during a disaster, including family, physician and school phone numbers and out-of-town emergency contacts. Each family member should carry a copy.

    Second, identify types of disasters your household might experience, and plan emergency meeting places for each type, including by your home, in your neighborhood, outside your neighborhood and outside your area.

    Third, schedule times to practice what you’ve discussed.

    “A gift to help prepare for emergencies could be life-saving for friends and family,” said FEMA Region V acting regional administrator Janet Odeshoo in a release. “These gift ideas provide a great starting point for being prepared for an emergency or disaster.”

    So while flowers are nice and all (until they wither and die), perhaps a better way to say "I love you" is to show them how much their life really does mean to you by helping them prepare for emergencies. After all, flowers wilt, candy melts, but emergency preparedness is a meaningful, practical gift that will last much longer.

    - Melissa

     

    February - Power Banner - Valentine's Day

  • Why You Should Join the ShakeOut

    On October 15, more than 19 million people across the globe are signed up to drop to the floor, duck under a solid object, and hang on in the world’s largest earthquake drill.

    Drop Cover HOLD ON, NELLY!

    The Great ShakeOut can be a yearly reminder to prepare for an earthquake – a natural disaster that affects all 50 states, according to ready.gov. The same preparations you make for earthquakes can also help you prepare for other types of natural disasters.

    Here are stories of three people who participated in ShakeOuts where they lived.

    Luke was a student at a community college. His school sent him an e-mail saying it was participating in the ShakeOut about a week before the event. He forgot about it. The next week, while he was walking to class, he received a text message saying the event was beginning.

    “I was already outside, so I didn’t do anything,” he said.

    In fact, from his perspective, the event was a dud. When he arrived at his class, only one classmate even knew about the ShakeOut.

    Now he wants to be more prepared for an earthquake. He and his wife, Stephanie, live on the third floor of a building. So they joke their preparation may need to include rappelling gear. More seriously, he said his water heater is free standing and he probably should bolt it down.

    Stephanie has more ideas, including keeping breakables off high shelves and securing bookcases to the wall. She’s from California, so she did an earthquake drill every year.

    Sarah hiding under a deskShe also participated in ShakeOut events in offices where she worked. At one, everyone had to practice crawling under their desks. Several of her coworkers had limited mobility and couldn’t get under, or got stuck under, their desks.

    “They realized, ‘I need to make some serious accommodations for me to be safe,’” she said.

    She thinks ShakeOut-style earthquake drills are useful for several reasons.

    First, they make her aware of hazards she might not otherwise consider. Like obstacles. Her current job is in a building with labs, glass equipment, and chemicals. When coworkers have sturdy furniture, like lab benches, they’ve often stuffed things under them. In an earthquake, those areas would be inaccessible as cover.

    “I think we’d be pretty much doomed,” she joked. “We have a sturdy enough building, but man, it would be scary.”

    Second, drills remind her of emergency procedures. She and her coworkers get trained every year on the individual to call if there’s a chemical spill or other accident.

    “How are we going to remember it if we don’t practice it?” she asked.

    Third, drills help her update her knowledge. For example, she was raised believing she should stand under a door frame during an earthquake. That isn’t recommended anymore.

    “In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house. You are safer under a table,” according to earthquakecountry.org.

    Fourth, the drills remind her to think more about emergency preparedness at home. She believes it’s especially important to rehearse emergency meeting places and contact information. When a major earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, she was working for an organization that recruited people to teach there. They had to scramble to find all their teachers so they could let their families know they were safe.

    Next up: Judy. Judy is a budget officer for her state’s highway patrol. She has participated in four ShakeOut drills in her office. No one took the first one seriously, but each year they got a little more conscientious.

    For example, because people in her office with limited mobility couldn’t get under their desks, her office bought hardhats. Another year they bought flashlights that clip onto the hardhats so they can keep their hands free if they need to evacuate over debris.

    Each earthquake drill teaches her little ways to improve her preparation at home, too. Like this tip she shared: keep shoes by or under the bed. That way, if there’s an earthquake and there’s broken glass around, they’ll be easy to reach.

    She keeps a 72-hour emergency kit at her desk and another in her front closet at home. She also keeps blankets and a first aid kit in her car. Her emergency training taught her that, logistically, it’s impossible for outside help to arrive sooner than three days.

    “I always hear people say, ‘I get all this [emergency kits] together and never need it. Well, count yourself [lucky] that you never need it. Sometimes things happen and so many people don’t have it,” she said.

     

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