September 11, 2014–A Teachable Moment

September 11th will always be a day of mourning. How do we want to commemorate it next year?

Here’s an idea: Why not use September 11th to learn about evacuation?  Many people never stayed in a shelter and don’t  know where the nearest shelter is.

Many people do not have a go bag. If they have a go bag, they wonder what to put in it. Is it better to omit some items and have a lighter bag? Should they pack more and not worry about the weight of the go bag? (Yes, it’s like preparing for an overnight hike!).

It’s unrealistic to expect most people to figure out go bags and evacuation on their own. Who wouldn’t welcome some expert, communal hand-holding?

For starters, evacuation shelters are usually set up in a school. The shelter nearest you might be in an elementary school, a middle school, or a high school. It might be in a community college or a four-year college.

However, evacuation shelters are not always in a school. The shelter nearest you might be in a community center, a recreation center, or a house of worship.

“Find Open Shelters” is  part of the wonderful work done by the American Red Cross.  Just before or during an emergency, it tells you which shelter nearest you will be open.  If another disaster occurs, do not assume that the location used during Hurricane Sandy will again become a shelter.

September 11th provides a teachable moment.  On or near September 11th, 2014, experts in emergency management should hold free, community-wide events.  These events might be held where evacuees were housed during Hurricane Sandy.

Folks will then–while not under special stress–find the evacuation center and learn about it. Is it in the middle of nowhere? Is there a library nearby?  Is there a pizza place within walking distance? 

Is the evacuation shelter clean and well-maintained? Is it dingy and depressing?

Is there parking? Are buses or a train station nearby?

Participants who have go bags should bring them. They can compare items in their own go bag with what their friends and neighbors have. Hopefully, participants without a go bag will be inspired to pack one.

The idea of connecting September 11th and personal preparedness can be adapted. For example, the meeting could be held at a library or a high school instead of at a shelter.

I always feel a connection between September 11th and Hurricane Sandy. One is a man-made disaster; the other, a natural disaster.

They are both in the past. Nonetheless, they both made us feel more vulnerable.

We cannot save the precious lives that were lost. Let’s act now to prepare for the next disaster: Let’s do what we can to regain our sense of control.

Does this idea appeal appeal to you? If not, do you have a better one? There is space below to comment, question, or share.

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