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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Zen of Preparedness: Lessons Learned from SB50 Championship Rally

By Patricia Billinger
When a million people descend on one city park to celebrate their team winning the Super Bowl, emergency agencies go into overdrive preparing for any eventuality that could compromise public safety.

But what about the fans?

As I made my way to Civic Center Park on Feb. 9, 2016, to join a pair of Red Cross teams stationed to provide basic first aid and other services, I witnessed several incidents that illustrated the power of preparedness…and the frustration that comes with being unprepared.

Being unprepared can make a good day bad, and a bad day
even worse. 
One woman was furiously laying on her horn at an intersection, fuming at being unable to turn right while hoards of pedestrians (legally) crossed at the crosswalk. It appeared she either hadn’t planned for so much traffic, or hadn’t heard the news that a million people were expected to come to downtown Denver for the rally.

In a coffee shop a block from the parade route, a man cut to the front of the line and slammed down a bottle of water; he didn’t want to wait for lattes to be made to purchase his water. When told that others in the line were waiting to purchase water, too, he claimed that if he didn’t get water right now, the person he was with was going to pass out. It appeared they hadn’t anticipated the physical toll of walking to the event and standing in the sun amid a crush of other people.

And in the midst of the jubilant crowd, as the parade was just beginning to arrive, a certain communications employee (ahem), gave up on trying to live-Tweet about her agency’s participation in the event and then had to leave early as her cell phone battery died due to searching constantly for a signal. She had known that cell towers would be taxed (she works for an emergency agency, after all, that had given its emergency workers radios to ensure they could maintain communications without relying on cell service). But she hadn’t made a plan for WiFi access and hadn’t brought along a backup charger.

For all three of these individuals, a lack of preparedness turned a fun experience into an exercise in frustration. Who knows how many other fans had their celebration dampened by poor planning – perhaps arriving too late because they hadn’t checked road closures, perhaps suffering discomfort because they failed to bring supplies like water, sunscreen and snacks, perhaps getting separated from friends or loved ones because they hadn’t made a meet-up plan and couldn’t connect via cell phones. 

Now, consider this: imagine how much worse it could be, and how much higher the stakes would be, if this weren’t just an afternoon in the sun celebrating a sports team, but rather a disaster affecting 1 million people.

Being unprepared makes a fun day less fun. Being unprepared during a disaster makes a bad day even worse –  potentially even fatal.  Meanwhile, taking steps to be prepared – whether for the everyday or the Big Day – provides a certain zen. 

Have a Game Plan. It makes life easier.
When you have prepared mentally and physically for the things that could go wrong, you are better equipped to cope when things do go wrong. You have that alternate route in case Broncos traffic – or a flooded out bridge – eliminates your original route. You have that bottle of water in case your companion gets faint from standing too long – or from running to escape a burning home. You have that MiFi device and backup battery for your cell phone in case 1 million people overwhelm the cell towers – or some cell towers are down because they were blown down by a tornado.

The zen of preparedness is something to practice on a daily basis, so that you can tap into it no matter how big or small a disaster may strike.

Find out more about how you can prepare for emergencies large and small: http://www.redcross.org/north-texas-preparedness/prepare-your-family

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