Sunday, August 28, 2011

I made a disaster preparedness kit

Never Done: I made a disaster preparedness kit

As I wrote yesterday, I didn't get to get ready for the storm while I actually felt agitated about it. Instead I had to wait until I felt rational and calm about it, and after I had a better sense of its true magnitude. It looks like it's going to be a Category 1 storm, which is not nothing, but it's not the Big One people were predicting. True, 5 people have already died in North Carolina, and 900,000 people are out of power (as of this writing, which is Saturday evening, even though it's going to post on Sunday morning, because I don't want to assume there will be power in Brooklyn on Sunday morning) -- as I was saying, true, it's causing damage in North Carolina and about to hit Washington D.C., but it's not supposed to cause flooding in my neighborhood, and it's predicted to be 60-70 mph winds instead of 90-100 mph.

Still, I read Zeitoun, and I know how bad an urban hurricane disaster could get, so I decided not to take the storm lightly, and to make a disaster preparedness kit, according to FEMA's recommendations. I know, I know ... FEMA. But I already had most of the items on the list, and it doesn't hurt to have some latex gloves around. I know, I know ... I'm not likely to be flooded in or out of my apartment, but it doesn't hurt to have some extra peanut butter and 9-volt batteries.

It's interesting to pack a Go Bag without feeling like a paranoid jerk. To make a copy of your license and insurance card and to put it into a baggie and into a backpack. It feels so self-centered. But at the same time, it's actually an act of lessening your burden on society -- and getting things ready to share with other people. If it would turn into an actual disaster, and I would not be at all prepared, I would require more resources and services to get through it. Also, by stocking up on saint candles and tuna fish, I can offer light and food to others if they need it. Also, by spending the day paying my bills and cleaning up piles of papers, I make a nicer living environment for me and anyone who joins me here while the storm shuts us in.

This is just one of the ways we can be thinking about others during a storm/ event. There are people without homes across the Eastern seaboard, who hopefully have access to shelter(s.) There are people incarcerated at Riker's Island without an evacuation plan because Bloomberg decided not to make one. There are people getting evacuated to centers -- two are very near my house (because my neighborhood is pretty high and not at all likely to flood) -- who don't get to stay home and pay bills. I don't actually know if we can volunteer there, or if we need prior training and certification with the Red Cross. (My sister does Red Cross certified disaster work.) We can think about if our actions put anyone else -- including rescue workers -- at risk. Every time there's a big storm/event, someone goes out and does something (goes surfing, goes canoeing) that requires someone to risk their life in order to rescue them. I myself was one of those people during Hurricane Gloria, which I chose, with some college friends, as the perfect time to trip on mushrooms. We took them, went out, and had a completely gorgeous day running around campus in the storm. It was glorious, but it was a terrible decision that could have gone just so terribly wrong.

And yet sometimes it's a delicate negotiation to figure out how to balance our decisions against other people's decisions. I asked my landlords to move the patio furniture, which is essentially outside my bedroom, but they don't think the wind will be strong enough to blow it around. Now, it's true that I have no idea if it's going to be strong enough to blow it around, but I also know that it's possible that it will be, and I don't want a rocking chair smashing into my bedroom window. I could go out and move it myself, but where to? There is no room inside my apartment. I could insist that they move it for my sense of safety, but that's a lot of work (although I offered to do it with them) for them to alleviate my fears and meet my standards of hurricane preparedness. Or I could do what I'm going to do, and spend an uneasy night, knowing that it could go either way, but that I would have preferred to err on the side of caution. I think the guiding mide (middah) here is Patience: Don't aggravate a situation with wasted grief. It might be bad, and it might not, but I can only be as prepared as I can be, and there's only so much it makes sense to worry about.

In the end, I live on high ground and I have a lot of peanut butter. Enough to share. Let me know if you need some.

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