DISASTERS live with us. We can’t get away from them and we can’t get rid of them. Most come without warning and each leaves destruction in its trail. Then we’re left to assemble the pieces after the earth shakes.
Caribbean people grow-up with disasters of all kinds, whether ‘Acts of God’ or ‘Man-Made’. We know hurricanes and tropical storms, landslides, droughts and other natural elements evolving from our disruption of Nature. But there are also the fires and floods, major accidents, poisonings and other such preventable and avoidable phenomena.
One thing common to all disasters, however, is the human effect: how they affect us, how we respond when they do – and what we do in between.
Emergency management organizations across the Caribbean have spent an eternity trying to convince human beings to care more about themselves by being more prepared for disasters. (In our case, NEMO preaches ‘perpetual preparedness’)
We have an annual Hurricane Season and we do get related warnings. But just how prepared can we ever be for a disaster like a major earthquake? Or another volcano eruption?Or, God Forbid, a tsunami?
Ideally, ‘all family members’ should learn how to handle emergency equipment, but how practical is that? Each household should have a First Aid Kit, but how many really do?
It’s wise to advise that during an earthquake we should ‘Stay Calm and Don’t Panic.’ But, how possible is that? And what if you do?
The way in which the average Saint Lucian responded to the tremor(s) here and the reports from other affected countries earlier this week, will definitely not please the emergency management agencies.
Naturally, people were more interested in sharing stories of where they were and what they were doing when the quake struck. Smart phones filmed everything from bricks falling off buildings onto cars and goods falling off supermarket shelves to alcohol shaking inside half-empty bottles on a flat table. But hardly anyone talked about what might have happened or what they would have done had the quake’s depth been closer than 76.5 miles (123 km) below the earth’s surface.
The last quake here a few years ago split roads and cracked buildings, leaving its mark everywhere. But with infrastructure and property damage only estimated and (thankfully) not a life lost, we continue to Thank God for continuing to spare us.
Disasters test people and nations, even though at great cost. Organized or not, people mobilize to volunteer and assist the distressed. It’s simply a human thing to do.
Unfortunately, however, there continues to be a very wide divide between what the scientists monitoring our weather and geology know and how much we the people they are tasked to care for, do care about caring for ourselves.
Regional and national emergency organizations must all be equally commended for their eternal commitment to the task of always reminding us about preparing and always striving to always be prepared for the unknown. In every case, they have done their all to give their best.
Donations do flow from the wider communities to the distressed, but it’s those charged with managing the rummage in the aftermath who, unheralded, bear the brunt of the immediate task of making a direct and distinct difference in the lives of those affected.
Regretfully (but unavoidably), all of that is after the fact – and there’s no other way, really.
So, here we go again, merrily hopping along our lucky way into another day, another tomorrow.
Until the earth shakes again…