Editor’s note: Craig Caudill shares insights on a nifty way of thinking about what to prepare for and when. It’s the average statistics pertaining to an urban related crisis. – John
When disaster strikes in an urban area, there are some numbers you need to be aware of. To make it easy, all you need to remember is the 35s. In the aftermath of a disaster, there are some things you can almost count on and they are not always positive. In order to survive, you need to prepare to handle how each of these things will affect you and your family. The 35s is a group of statistics that have been taken from past disasters.
3 to 5 hours after an event, expect looting. People are panicking and will do whatever it takes to get what they need to survive. This includes stealing. Normal law-abiding folks will resort to taking what is not theirs to get what they need to survive. Unfortunately, on the flip side of the looting comes those who are willing to go to great lengths to protect their property. This is a recipe for disaster. We refer to Hurricane Katrina for this one. One of the major problems that plagued the area was the looters.
Within 3 to 5 days of a disaster, the food supplies in a city will be wiped out. Typically, grocery stores only stock enough to last a few days. Regular deliveries make sure there is always a constant supply of food, but when disaster strikes, deliveries are likely impossible. If a disaster is expected, the shelves will also be wiped out by people buying everything up as they foresee the impending crisis.
After Hurricane Sandy, residents witnessed this first hand. Bread became obsolete. Residents in their panic bought every loaf of bread off the shelves. Batteries were also wiped out. These are just two items; imagine if the storm had been much worse? The mayor of New York City had to make food available on the fourth day following the storm. Being unprepared left the citizens and government scrambling and the store shelves empty.
If the disaster is really hard-hitting, within 3 to 5 weeks, city dwellers will begin to leave the city in search of basic necessities. A hurricane or tornado comes, wreaks havoc and then leaves and residents start rebuilding. Disasters like the Chernobyl event made rebuilding impossible. Pripyat in particular was totally abandoned. Survivors were sick, suffering radiation poisoning and were forced to travel to other places for shelter and medicine. These survivors were looking for somewhere new to put down roots and rebuild their communities.
Those haphazard communities will begin to fall apart within 3 to 5 months. It is normal for people to want to create and be a part of a social group. In Yugoslavia, people who came together in the wake of the collapse of communism began to notice some major issues. Poor government structure and strong militant nationalism created more problems and ultimately resulted in the downfall of Yugoslavia. Through the breeding of fear handed down by political leaders, the community fell apart.
3 to 5 years after the crisis, there may be a bit of normalcy among the people. However, the normal now, is not what the normal before the event would have been. Like an injury the human body suffers, the human mind after a crisis will also carry scars that will serve as reminders. Things will be different, but it does not mean they will be bad. Imagine a widower getting on with life after the death of a spouse. The widower may decide to remarry in time. This would be a new normal. The person would be happy, but it would be different than before.
When you apply this new normal to crisis situations, you have essentially the same thing. People will remember what it was like before, during and immediately after. Humans need normal routine and will strive to achieve that. In many cases, the crisis is a learning opportunity and remembering, isn’t always so bad.