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Natural Disasters and Priority Protocols

The recent Typhoon in the Philippines was a tragedy of epic proportions. More than 3,500 people have been confirmed dead while and those numbers continue to rise. Tens of thousands more have been injured and thousands remain missing. This Typhoon is reported to be the strongest that has have ever struck land and more than ever, we are hearing of storms that are increasingly violent. We all hope that such devastation will never hit here at home, but of course there are never any guarantees when it comes to natural disasters.

One of the criticisms that we usually hear after such disasters is why it takes so long to get help to people in areas that have been hit with such devastation. The reality is that even aid agencies that are ready and prepared to bring any kind of relief to people cannot get into most of the areas; even aircraft are often not able to land right away. Ground personnel often have to wait for other emergency crews to clear the way before food or water is able to reach many of these areas – that takes time. Local agencies also have to assess which areas were hit the worst to determine where aid is needed first – once again, this takes time.

Just like the emergency departments in hospitals have triage protocols that help doctors and nurses prioritize who are the most critical patients that need to be treated right away; so to disaster relief agencies have protocols that help them determine which area they must get to first. In any natural disaster, it’s difficult to predict exactly where the hardest hit areas will be ahead of time. So that while the location you and your family are in during such an occurrence may suffer only loss of power and/or water, it still may be a while before these utilities can be restored.

The communities in central Canada that were hit by the ice storm in 1998 experienced exactly these issues. Emergency crews worked tirelessly to get families that lived in urban areas into shelters while they attempted to restore water and power. There were, however, dozens of smaller, rural areas in Ontario and Quebec that emergency workers were not able to get to for weeks. This meant that hundreds of individuals and families had to rely only on what they had on hand in their homes or what neighbours were able to share.

It is  precisely for these reasons that a growing number of experts are recommending that every home should be equipped with food, water, and other necessities for a minimum of one or two weeks. For those who are still unsure how much in the way of provisions is really necessary; one way to look at it would be to ask yourself just how many days of food would you have just before you do your major household grocery shopping. What about any pets you have or prescriptions someone in your home needs or friends that may be visiting while a major, unexpected storm or other natural disaster strikes?

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