Posts Tagged ‘Disaster Preparedness’

Waffle House prepared to weather the storms

September 9, 2019

USA Today recently had a good article about how the Waffle House restaurant chain is organized to provide food and shelter during storms, floods and other disasters.

Waffle House stockpiles emergency supplies, employs special teams ready to rush to the scene of an emergency and has thick loose-leaf binders of directions as to what to do in any kind of emergency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency rates the seriousness of emergencies based on the status of the nearest Waffle House – “green” (Waffle House operating normally), “yellow” (Waffle House operating on a limited basis) and “red” (Waffle House close, which almost never happens).

This is a good example of how managers of corporations and other big institutions need to think during the coming bad years.

LINKS

How Does Waffle House Stay Open During Disasters? by Jason Kottke for kottke.org.

Hurricane Dorian: ‘Waffle House Index’ put to test during disasters by Annie Blanks for the Pensacola News-Journal and USA Today.

What Do Waffles Have to Do With Risk Management? by Laura Walter for EHS Today magazine.

Storms, floods and climate apartheid

March 6, 2019

An extreme city, according to Ashley Dawson, is a city in which extremes of rich and poor render it unable to deal with extreme weather events.

In case of storm and flood, the rich people on the high ground almost always get priority over the poor people down by the waterfront—what Dawson calls climate apartheid.

And the people who live in rich places, such as Houston, who are mostly lighter-skinned, get priority over the poorer places, such as Port-au-Prince or San Juan, who are mostly darker-skinned.

Beyond this, Dawson wrote, the incentives of a market economy will almost always favor real estate development over public safety.

The best way to protect cities from high water is to pull back from the shoreline and create or expand wetlands to sponge up the high water.

But property developers, not to mention individual homeowners, want seawalls to protect their investments and enable them to recover their sunk costs.  Our economic system is based on continued growth.  There is no incentive system for pulling back.

Dawson said this is as true of New York City, where he lives, as it is of any city in the world.

This is no small thing.  Nearly half the world’s 7 billion people now live in cities.  Virtually all of them are on ocean coastlines or other bodies of water.  In the Global South, drought is driving increasing numbers of poor people off the land and into urban slums.

Dawson does not view global warming as a doom we can avoid if we try hard enough.  He sees it as an emergency that is already upon us, and that most of us are unprepared for.

He does not view it as merely a scientific and technical problem.  He says it is a social justice issue—a question of who drowns (usually the poor and dark-skinned) and who is saved (usually the rich and light-skinned)

Click to enlarge

When Superstorm Sandy was about to hit New York City in 2012, the city government told residents of the potential flood areas to evacuate.  Soon after subway service was shut down, which meant that those without cars were stranded in their neighborhoods.  Soon after high water left thousands without access to electricity and heat, or to essential supplies.

The first responders were volunteers, including veterans of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who reconstituted themselves as Occupy Sandy.  They did whatever it took to provide food and water and rescue stranded elderly and disabled people on upper floors of apartment buildings.

The official disaster relief agencies showed up only a few days date and, according to Dawson, were happy to make use of Occupy Sandy and other volunteers, but reluctant to help or share information.  The reason, he said, is that the official organizations are engaged in a dog-eat-dog competition for funding and don’t want any of their rivals to gain an advantage.

Dawson wrote that when Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed up at the flood-stricken Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, the only people he wanted to talk to were the business owners.  They were the ones who got the funds to rebuild.  The neighborhood and Occupy Sandy leaders were brushed aside.

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Thoughts now that my lights are back on

November 2, 2012

My electrical and gas service were restored this morning, and I am back home after having taken temporary shelter with my good friends Bill and Jane Hickok.  I am grateful to Bill and Jane, and thankful for all my other friends whom I can call upon for help if need be—a gift which I have not earned, but gratefully accept.

What I suffered was a minor inconvenience compared with the plight of people on Long Island, New York City, New Jersey and elsewhere along the East Coast, but it was enough to remind me how much I owe to the competence, hard work and intelligent planning of the people, working in the private sector and the public sector, who operate the complicated systems that give me electricity, telephone and Internet service, gas heat and gasoline, water and sewerage service, and food in my pantry.  Interruptions of service remind me not to take these things for granted.

Tropical Storm Sandy is a reminder of the importance of preparedness both on the individual and societal level.  On the individual level, having flashlight batteries, candles, nonperishable food and water on hand; on the societal level, thinking about worst-case scenarios and not making false economies that inhibit readiness.

As I said, what I suffered was a minor inconvenience.  The majority of people here in Monroe County still had electricity and heat.  It is very different from the parts of New York City where large neighborhoods are without light, heat or subway services to their places of work.  And we Americans are well off compared to people in the Caribbean and south Asia who have been ravaged by storms, tsunamis and earthquakes in recent years, without the means in place for relief.

I think it is a safe prediction that, as a result of the changing climate, the world can expect more extreme weather during the coming decades.  There is nothing that can be done about this in the near term.  If and when the U.S. government and other governments get serious about addressing climate change, it will be to protect future generations from even worse changes.