Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting Ready for the Wrong Things

As I prepare to go back to work after my vacation, I can't help looking for some gloom-and-doom things to write about that will get me into the right frame of mind to face the dreaded Overflowing In-Box and its twin brother, The Massive Pile of Documents of Doom. Luckily, gloom-and-doom topics are not difficult to find and range from the appearance (already!) of Christmas displays in some local stores to ... well ... the worst Mother Nature can do and the worst we can do about it.

One of the things my coworkers get tired of hearing me bloviate about is our overreliance on computers and electronics and our lack of planning for what happens if we lose them. You, Dear Readers, have gotten a small taste of this in my discussions of things like the beauty of handwritten letters (rather than word-processed epistles and e-mail/tweets) and the gradual extinction of hard-copy photographs (as opposed to digital scrapbooks). What happens when the electrons stop flowing out of the wall and the ol' hard disk stops spinning, eh?

There was an interesting, if disconcerting, article in yesterday's Washington Post that summarized my concerns better than I've managed to do so far, which is probably why no one is yet offering to pay me to write this blog: "We're Still Not Ready for Another Hurricane Katrina," by Stephen Flynn.

Mr Flynn does a great job of laying out the lessons we haven't yet learned from the greatest national disaster in American history and why, as a result, we are leaning into the mighty left hook Mother Nature is almost certainly winding up to deliver. He notes that we have poured billions of dollars into protecting against terrorist attacks which - although a very real threat - are far less likely and potentially devastating than major hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, heavy blizzards, and other natural disasters. Local, State, and Federal governments continue to bicker over who has what responsibilities, insurance companies dodge and weave about whether damage was caused by wind (that they have to pay for) or flood (that the Federal government picks up), and vast funds have been spent on high-tech command centers instead of stockpiles of essential relief supplies and basic equipment for first responders.

The 24-hour news cycle and Government's voracious appetite for information don't help, either. News crews interfere with rescue and recovery operations and help to magnify the scope of a disaster, while government agencies demand information for official briefings from leaders on the scene who should be concentrating on the job at hand.

There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good work to protect us from threats both natural and man-made. I'm just concerned that it's not enough, and not properly focused. Unfortunately, Mr Flynn's article does nothing to make me feel any better.

And now, Dear Readers, I'm ready to go back to work.

Have a good day. Make your own personal disaster plan. You may never need it, but if you do, you'll thank me.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

I haven't thought of a personal disaster plan since our first year in Palembang. Hope you're having a better than expected day at work.

Gotfam said...

I have no disaster plan - outside of crap myself and then blog about it. Is that bad?

Mike said...

Not just computers but electricity in general. Without it our society is toast. That would be toast from a camp fire.

Bilbo said...

Amanda - I still remember panicking when we heard about the tsunamis while you were in Palembang...

Gotfam - your plan is similar to many others here in Disneyland on the Potomac: run in circles and scream. The final part is "Expect the Feds to bail you out."

Mike - you're right on that one. I have several emergency flashlights that recharge by shaking or by crank. No, I am not the crank.

Raquel's World said...

Funny how right after a disaster we as humans are all reflective and prepared. Then a couple months later we are like screw it. I am in "screw it" mode after getting all hyped up about Swine Flu and then ....nothing! But now there is a major hurricane, Earl, I believe skirting around our state, NC. So I did give some thought this morning to the what ifs, but they were just thoughts.

KathyA said...

Probably not the greatest thing to think about today -- having surgery:) I'll ask them if they have a disaster plan right before they put me under...