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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.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Burning Man

  • Comparing Hurricane Katrina with the Louisiana Flood

    Hurricane Katrina - Flooding in Venice, LA - Louisiana Flood Flooding in Venice, LA from Hurricane Katrina

    Today, exactly 11 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and parts of the Gulf Coast, Louisiana residents are cleaning up from another storm that was far worse than everyone expected.

    At least 100,000 homes were affected in a once-in-1,000-year flood. At least 13 people were killed. Emergency managers said it was the most devastating natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

    The Louisiana floods have many parallels with Hurricane Katrina.

    First, both were worse than expected.

    Hurricane Katrina was expected to be dangerous. The day before it hit, August 28, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation. An estimated 80 percent of the New Orleans metro area evacuated. However, no one, including the Army Corps of Engineers who built the city’s levee system, expected nearly every levee to fail.

    The storm that slammed southeast Louisiana was an easterly wave, a “hurricane without the winds,” as Barry Keim, Louisiana State Climatologist, told Popular Science.

    The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for the area on August 10, saying up to 10 inches was possible.

    That was a slight understatement. In two days, NWS gauges measured 21.86 inches of rain.

    Louisiana Flood - via NPR Louisiana Flood, 2016 - via NPR

    “If this was a tropical storm or a hurricane that actually had a National Hurricane Center name attached to it, it probably would have gotten a whole lot more attention as it approached over here," Keim told Popular Science.

    In fact, the New York Times later apologized for its delayed interest in the flooding.

    Second, not that many people had flood insurance. Flooding is usually not covered by regular homeowner’s insurance but must be bought separately.

    Before Hurricane Katrina, there were about 360,000 flood insurance policies in Louisiana, according to Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon in a story by the Shreveport Times. After Katrina, the number of policies jumped to 490,000 in 2008. It’s at 450,000 now, which only represents about 21 percent of homes.

    About 75 percent of the people whose homes were damaged in the flood didn’t have flood insurance.  Almost half of the people who live in a high risk area in Louisiana have flood insurance, according to FEMA, but only 12 percent outside the high risk zone have it. A high risk zone is defined by the National Flood Insurance Program as an area with at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. About a third of homes that flood in Louisiana every year are outside the high risk flood zone, David LaCombe of UDB Insurance in Alexandria told the Shreveport Times.

    When the president declares a major disaster, as he did for Louisiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a maximum of $33,000 per household for disaster relief.

    “Even if you only have 3 or 4 inches of water in your home, it could still cost you $40,000 to $50,000 to replace the sheet rock, replace the flooring and all that sort of stuff,” LaCombe told the Shreveport Times.

    Louisiana Flood Only 25% of flood-damaged homes were covered by flood insurance - Image via Insurance Journal

    “I think everyone in Louisiana should have flood insurance,” Melissa Becker, assistant director and flood-plain manager for the Rapides Area Planning Commission, told the Shreveport Times.

    After Hurricane Katrina, many businesses and government entities struggled to reach evacuated and missing employees. The hurricane displaced more than a million people, the largest such migration in U.S. history. Infrastructure was destroyed. Total damage cost $108 billion.

    In Louisiana’s flooded area, 22 school districts closed, according to the Washington Post. Some schools are flooded, but the greater problem is finding school personnel. One district superintendent was living in a shelter on August 21, and an estimated 4,000 employees were displaced by the flooding. As of August 22, 2,800 people were still living in shelters in the Baton Rouge area alone.

    We’re just entering the height of Atlantic hurricane season. Right now, Hurricane Gaston is churning about 575 miles east southeast of Bermuda, but is expected to weaken without making landfall anywhere.

    However, two tropical depressions, which could possibly organize into tropical storms, formed Sunday. One is about 60 miles south of Key West, Fla., and is expected to hit Florida and move into the Gulf of Mexico. Another, which meteorologists have been following for several days, formed in the Atlantic west of Bermuda and is on track to bring heavy rain to North Carolina.

    The best thing anyone can do before a hurricane is prepare emergency kits and financial information, have flood insurance and be able to evacuate.

    “You’re still going to have the homes under water," Keim told Popular Science. "You can’t move the homes, but you can move the people.”

     

    Hurricane_Blog_Banner - Louisiana Flood

  • German Preppers: Germany Preparing for Catastrophe

    Germany Police

    July 2016 was a brutal month for Germany. In just one week, four violent attacks killed ten people and injured dozens more. Each attack used a different weapon – a gun, bomb, axe, and machete. But it’s not just hand-held weapons Germany is concerned about. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, also plans to have a large store of smallpox vaccines and antibiotics in case of a biological attack. The country is to also have a gas and oil reserve spread throughout the country to last for 90 days.

    The German government has seen firsthand that there are dangers inside their own country – and perhaps more coming. They are taking precautions, but they are also asking their citizens to take some of the responsibility on themselves.

    Pantry GermanyAccording to The Telegraph, Germans are being told to stockpile food and water in preparations for another attack or catastrophe. This mandate is the first of its kind since the end of the Cold War. They recommend storing enough food for ten days and drinking water for five days. People are urged to store two liters or drinking water per person per day. Other items they are encouraged to store are medicines, wood, candles, matches, flashlights, and a reserve of cash. These items will help keep them comfortable should they be confined to their homes during another bout of unrest or terrorist attack.

    Germany had this type of emergency preparedness plan in place at least during the Cold War, but since then have eased off on being actively prepared. With the new threats emerging in their country, they are bringing back those precautions. While we never wish for unrest and alert such as Germany is facing, we can still apply their precautions to us on this side of the pond.

     

    ferguson-riots- via Music Times - Germany Ferguson riots - via Music Times

    In the United States, we have seen our fair share of problems, be it attacks from extremists or just civil unrest. But the fact remains: we are not immune. The riots in Ferguson and Baltimore is evidence that any given day could see an explosion of violence which could keep residents locked inside their homes. During these aforementioned events, folks were ordered to follow a mandatory curfew in those areas, and even walking to the store in the middle of the day was a dangerous prospect.

    If there’s one thing we can learn from Germany, it’s that we should, as a people, be prepared for anything.

    Storing food and water isn’t just important for natural disasters. Civil unrest or terror attacks can make it all but impossible to get food from the local supermarket. Blocked roads, looting, enforced curfew, other situations might make it physically impossible.

    That being said, the odds of being in a community facing these problems is quite low. However, the principle of preparedness remains. Being prepared for civil unrest is being prepared for a natural disaster, job loss, or other such emergency. Being prepared isn’t about living in fear of what’s to come. Instead it’s being able to live in relative comfort and safety no matter what life throws at you.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Germany

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