It seems like the whole world is in upheaval.
Recent events have illustrated the strain natural and man-made uprising can place on national, city and state governments.
From something as relatively benign as the extended civil disturbance in Madison to international incidents like a civil uprising in Bahrain that turned violent to something as horrifically catastrophic as the tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan, the news has been full of emergency situations.
While watching these situations develop and unfold, I’ve been wondering recently how well Waukesha would respond to a crisis.
I’ve always felt relatively safe living in the Midwest. We aren’t subject to some natural disasters residents of other states fear, like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires or mudslides.
However, according to a hazard analysis by the Waukesha County, we should prepare for floods, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, snow storms, large structural fires, hazardous materials incidents, terrorism and transportation accidents involving aircraft, rail and highways.
Well, that’s reassuring.
One potential disaster this time of the year in Waukesha is flooding. In fact, this week is Flood Safety Awareness week across Wisconsin and nationally.
According to the proclamation signed by Gov. Scott Walker, there have been 10 presidential disasters declared in Wisconsin since 1999 and the state suffered major flooding events in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
A call to the county’s emergency preparedness department provided some reassurance. There are plans in place for coordinated government response to emergency situations and training and support available for citizens who would like to become more informed.
One resource is the Southeast Wisconsin Citizens and Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), a non-profit organization committed to providing support and resources for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
According to the website, COAD prepares individuals and organizations to survive and assist the community during a disaster through training, exercise and education. They manage two volunteer programs: Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and the Southeast Wisconsin Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).
According to COAD, being prepared for disaster doesn't require a lot of time and resources. A few simple steps can make a big difference.
- First, put together a disaster kit with essential items that you and your family will need to survive.
- Second, make a plan. Figure out where to go, how to reach your family, and where you'll stay in case you cannot return home.
- Finally, be informed about the risks in your community.
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training includes basic disaster preparedness and response skills to help people protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. Training sessions can be arranged for businesses or groups, such as church or neighborhood groups, scouts, civic organizations or any group of interested individuals, according to the website for the county’s emergency preparedness department.
And don’t forget potential health pandemics or bioterrorism threats like anthrax. To prepare for a potential disaster, the Waukesha County Health Department is seeking volunteers to support a city readiness simulation exercise at the Waukesha Expo Center. Volunteers may be called upon role play the parts of citizens or others involved in a mock disaster.
The research for this column was eye-opening but to bring it back to real disasters – please watch for opportunities over the next weeks to help victims of Japan’s tsunami, the death toll of which is approaching tens of thousands of people; with whole cities and villages homeless with little water and resources; and the literal fall-out of which could have an impact far beyond its borders.