Last week, we snickered a little when the East Coast nearly panicked at what we Alaskans would consider a relatively mild earthquake. Later in the week, we held our collective breath as the same region endured an actual natural disaster in Hurricane Irene.
In between, Gov. Sean Parnell posed this question to residents of Alaska: Are we ourselves actually prepared to endure a natural disaster here?
He also suggested that the answer to that question for most of the state’s population is “no.”
September has been designated National Preparedness Month, and the governor last week encouraged residents to take personal responsibility for their own safety, and have food and supplies on hand to last a week.
Here in Alaska, it’s not a matter of if, but when a disaster will strike. Earthquakes and tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, avalanches, extreme weather conditions — all have happened here in the recent past, and all are likely to happen again. Being in the middle of all that is part of what gives us what we like to call our “rugged individualism.”
By the same token, the governor suggested we may have lost a little bit of that as many of us are accustomed to visiting the grocery store several times a week. If a disaster were to strike, how many of us actually have seven days of food and water for ourselves and our family? Are supplies for the pets accounted for as well? How about essential medications? In the event of an evacuation, do we know what we need to take with us? Are there emergency supplies and gear in our cars? After all, you don’t need to drive too far to be in a wilderness situation here.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management has links to lots of information posted on its website at http://www2.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency/default.htm. Take some time this weekend to go over the list and make sure you have a plan. While you’re at it, check with your friends and neighbors who may, for whatever reason, need some extra help. We may be rugged individuals, but we also look after each other.
Speaking of being prepared, if you’re planning to celebrate the end of summer over the holiday weekend, please, make plans to do it safely. If you’re out on the roads, slow down, use caution, show some patience and courtesy. There will be a lot of other people heading out to gatherings with family and friends, one last fishing or camping trip, or the first hunting trip of the season. We’ve had too much tragedy on our roads this summer; let’s do all we can to make this weekend a safe one.
And if you’re going to drink, stay the night, have a designated driver or call a cab. Whatever you do, don’t get behind a wheel.
In short: Natural disasters in other parts of the country should remind us that with a little bit of preparedness, similar events here are just part of the adventure of living in Alaska, and not tragedies.