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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What the Presidential Debates can teach us about preparedness

by Patricia Billinger, Communications Director
Denver is host to the first Presidential debate of 2012, and the town is abuzz with talk about the debate and preparations for it.
The news has been warning us for days about road closures – in particular a large stretch of I-25 – being implemented in relation to the debate.  My husband and I both planned ahead and biked to work today in order to avoid being ensnared in the ensuing traffic. Local schools and hospitals made contingency plans to work around closures, and some local businesses implemented work-from-home or flexible work hours to help employees ensure the debate didn’t cause a debacle in their commutes.
I’m curious: What preparations and changes to your daily habits did you make in response to the knowledge that a major part of our city would be essentially shut down?
And I’m even more curious to know whether people took more precautions and gave more forethought to this temporary disruption to their lives than they do to the less tangible but more impactful threats of disasters.
There’s a major difference between the two: we knew the debate was coming, and we could plan ahead for it. With most Colorado disasters, you don’t get that luxury of time. Nevertheless, we can apply the same sort of planning and forethought to reduce the discomfort and inconveniences we may experience when disaster strikes.
We can plan our alternate routes: Imagine that our route home (or our route to the kids’ school, or the route out of our neighborhood) is going to be closed – not by a Presidential road block, but by fire, flood, downed trees or power lines.  How would we get to safety? Where would we go?
We can work on business preparedness and contingency plans so that we know our employees can continue to fulfill our company’s essential functions, whether or not they can make it in to the office.  Do we have the resources, plans and communications in place to keep operating?
We can tune in and find out ahead of time what the best sources for information are, so that we know what’s going on and how it will affect us. We don’t want to be the driver stuck in traffic on I-25 today with no clue that any of this was happening because we haven’t checked any source of local news in five days – and we certainly don’t want to be the person caught in danger’s way because we were unplugged from the critical sources of information that can pre-warn us with lifesaving information before or during disaster. Do we know how we would find out about evacuations, impending danger and emergency precautions during a wildfire, flood, man-made threat, tornado or other disaster?
I challenge readers to have your own debate tonight or tomorrow. Ask your household members the questions above and challenge each other with changing scenarios. Identify the weaknesses in your preparedness plans…and then commit to making plans and setting up the resources to address those weaknesses. And if you need some help, redcross.org has tons of resources and ideas.
Because the need to be prepared before disaster strikes is not debatable.

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