Everyone has their own takeaway lessons from witnessing or suffering a disaster. For myself, the wildfires of the past few years in my home state of California have scorched counties next door to mine, leaving an indelible imprint on me. I’ve done some of my own investigation and a lot of thinking in their wake. Here’s what believe to be true:
We’re all in this together
Raging mega-fires leave a swath of environmental, economic, and health damage behind that we all will be paying for in one way or another. Likewise, although thousands were affected directly by the most recent blazes, millions were indirectly affected in profound ways. I think about the toxic air quality suffered by millions in the San Francisco Bay Area during the Butte County fire in October. I hear about the difficulty homeowners are finding as they try to insure or re-insure their homes in expanding wilderness-urban interface communities. I hear from fire departments and disaster council folks wondering how to convince community members to finally take action on the need to sign up for alerts and clear defensible space on their property.
We’ll get through this together
In my reading on disasters and survival for that matter, two keys to making it through are adaptation and collaboration. Governments at all levels (that means thousands in the U.S.) need to buddy up to create policies and programs and share resources across jurisdictional and political lines. At the neighborhood level, families need reach out a bit to discover who is isolated and vulnerable up and down their street. Neighbors need to buddy-up to make sure that everyone gets out of a bad situation with a least a warning. It will save lives. Cooperating and sharing resources spreads out the risk and the costs as we contend disasters of all kinds.
We all need to take care of ourselves
Folks need a break more than ever from the relentless stream of bad news coming into our homes. A few less minutes on the smart phone, a few more minutes in nature, and perhaps some more daily human connection where we just listen without judgment may offer relief to our brains and a course correction for our perspectives. We need these intervals of peace and and positive living to break the corrosive diet of toxic stress in our lives.
We need to get informed and get ready
There is a veritable avalanche (pick your favorite massive hazard) of information on how to prepare yourself and your family for disasters. You don’t need to become a scholar of the literature; just find one source you trust that covers most hazards and go with it. Getting ready can be as easy as assembling stuff from a basic, generic list and crafting a basic plan that you talk about with your loved ones. You don’t have to spend a lot of time or a lot of money but you really should get started. I think you might be surprised at how much peace of mind during turbulent times is worth.