By Darrell Beck
Every person who lived in Ramona during the Witch Creek wildfire of 2007 has a story to tell about their experiences. Most would tell about the confusion of the forced evacuation, leaving people helplessly stalled in traffic for hours while waiting to get out of town.
Many of those who could, turned back after realizing they could be trapped in the traffic jam while being overtaken by the flames and being killed in their cars; or clearly realizing the evacuation was a disorganized travesty and the emergency might be over by the time they would be able to get safely out of town.
Many more tell of the difficulty they encountered while trying to get back into Ramona.
But there were others who stayed and who calmly assessed the situation and took whatever actions necessary to overcome and survive the disaster and save their property by their own initiative. Those people were the ones who knew they were on their own and could not depend on help from government agencies during major disasters.
The firestorm and the disorganized evacuation was a wakeup call for everyone and should be used as a reminder to all people to be better prepared for the next impending emergency.
But what kind of an emergency should we prepare for?
Probably the first thing that comes to mind are emergencies caused by the forces of nature such as fire, earthquakes, floods and hurricane-force wind, resulting in temporary loss of power, water, medical aid and other services. But what about emergencies caused by the actions of man such as invasion by outside forces creating armed conflict, or an electro-magnetic attack that disables the electric and communication grid, or, more likely, from unstable forces from within our society such as economic breakdown or domestic terrorism leading to insurrection, political unrest, martial law, anarchy and strikes creating food riots, looting and widespread chaos?
Many people don’t want to think about the worst case scenario or maybe they have been programmed to believe that government will always be there to take care of every crisis. But the false belief that government will help is precisely why many people are unprepared.
So the best way to be prepared for any emergency is to imagine what you would do to protect yourself and your family if there was nobody to help except yourself, because that’s exactly what will happen in the event of another major crisis. When you call there will be no response: no firemen, no policemen, no paramedics, no ambulance, no water, no food and no other help, either, because the authorities are overwhelmed with other emergencies, roads are closed or help can’t be reached because communications have been lost.
Maybe the water district’s water tanks are empty because there is no electricity to pump water up the hill or the primary pipeline has broken. Thus there is no water to drink, to wash or bathe, to use for firefighting or to flush the toilet. There is no electricity to cook food or to stay warm or for firefighting, or to connect to the Internet or other appliances; or to charge your new electric car. There is no gasoline because the electric gas pumps don’t work. There is no food in the stores because of strikes or shortages, or trucks can’t deliver goods. Refrigerated food spoils during prolonged electrical outages.
Once you realize that you are on your own and can no longer depend on government to take care of your needs, what would you do?
Will you be able to protect yourself and your family first, and, if so, how are you prepared? Do you have oil lamps; matches, wood stove, gas stove, lanterns and gas, propane, bottled water or water storage tanks, extra gasoline, an emergency supply of food, batteries, emergency radio, medication and hygiene supplies; livestock and pet supplies such as medicine, water and food? Do you have a generator, tools, clothing, bedding, and money? Do you have a garden or livestock?
What do you know about your neighborhood, your town and your surroundings? Who are your friends and neighbors? Who can you trust? Does anyone have a short-wave radio? How about a horse trailer or a tractor? Do you have a pond, stock tank, windmill and well or a pool pump, fire hose and nozzle? Do you know how to shut off the gas, water and electricity to your home?
In the event of civil unrest, are you prepared, willing and physically able to defend yourself and your property from rioters, trespassers and looters? If not, do you have a plan to deal with lawlessness and a place to retreat or a shelter to hide? Do you have an evacuation route and an evacuation plan? Do you have a plan to independently take care of yourself and your family for long periods of time without any help from the government? And lastly, should you evacuate or stay?
Join Ramona Tea’d on April 30 in the Ramona Mainstage, 226 Main St., to hear about Emergency Preparation by speakers Todd Smith and Terri Linnell. Bring your ideas, experiences and questions. Doors open at 11 a.m., program is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Food and beverages are available on site.
Darrell Beck is a Ramona resident.