It just happened so fast….
I think all of us in the prepping community have heard these words enough times to know that it is quite possibly one of the most commonly repeated phrases after any emergency or disaster event. Whether discussing a fast moving tornado that obliterated a small mid-western town, a massive hurricane that slammed into the gulf coast, a multi-car accident that left tons of twisted metal and devastated lives or, as of late, the aftermath of one or several individuals deciding that they alone have the right to determine who lives and dies. The circumstances can vary with almost incalculable variation but the story is always the same…”it just happened so fast“.
Does it really happen that fast? I guess that depends on how you view the event and the circumstances surrounding the event. It depends on what you believe your level of responsibility to be and how well you have prepared yourself to deal with major emergencies and disasters. I personally feel that very few things happen as fast as many people believe and I firmly believe that nothing happens in a vacuum.
Moore, Oklahoma – May 20, 2013
Let’s put our attention on the tornado that ripped through Moore, OK in 2013. On the afternoon of May 20, 2013 a tornado that would be listed as an EF5 tore through Moore, Oklahoma and left in it’s wake a devastated town with 277 injured citizens and 24 fatalities. The pictures that were published online show the utter destruction of the town and provide outsiders with a brief glimpse into the horror of a day that will not soon be forgotten. News reports soon followed and time after time shell shocked survivors said the same thing…
“It just happened so fast…“
The question however is just how fast did this happen? The weather system that produced the tornado in Moore had produced several other tornadoes in the region the previous two days. Meteorologists issued Tornado Watches and Tornado Warnings on multiple occasions. At 2:40PM a Tornado Warning was issued for the region including Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado touched down at 2:56PM, a full 16 minutes later, and a second warning was given at 3:01PM stating that the tornado was on the ground and moving toward Moore.
Now lets look at just how “fast” this happened. First of all Moore, Oklahoma is in Tornado Alley. Anyone living in this region is most certainly aware of the potential danger of tornadoes. As a matter of fact, Moore, Oklahoma had been hit by another F5 tornado in May of 1999 during the “tornado outbreak” that saw over 150 different tornadoes in a span of only six days. One could very easily argue that simply having this knowledge provides you with some form of “advanced warning” for the potential for danger.
So now, although the warnings for the tornado that actually hit the ground on May 20, 2013 only came about 15-20 minutes before the tornado hit the city, residents have a long history of tornado activity. As a prepper I have to believe that people living in this area have a plan. How do you spend every day and every night in “tornado alley” and not feel like you are constantly preparing for the next big storm?
Hurricane Katrina – 2005
Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005 and crossed southern Florida as a Category 1 hurricane. On August 29th it made landfall again, this time in southern Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane. In between those days Katrina briefly strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane before weakening again to Category 3. Although the National Weather Service and the federal government were constantly tracking Katrina, it wasn’t until August 27th that warnings were issued in southern Louisiana as the initial track of the storm was suspected to take it up into the Florida panhandle, not into Louisiana. This gave the region only two days to prepare for the storm. Evacuations were ordered. The storm crashed into the coast causing massive flooding, wind damage and destruction.
Once again news broadcasts were covered with people proclaiming to all who were watching, “it just happened so fast!”. The world watched as the great and powerful United States struggled to save it’s own citizens from a storm that they had been watching for days. The region resembled a war zone and soon there were reports of theft, abuse, rape and even murder at some of the evacuation centers. National Guard soldiers were deployed not only to assist with rescue efforts, but also to keep the peace and protect first responders. Many other accusations were made, but they are not germane to this article, so we will leave them for another time.
Hurricane Katrina offers us a different kind of glimpse however. While many victims that refused to heed the warnings and evacuation orders decried the disaster with the ever present “it just happened so fast” many other people actually did follow the evacuation orders. None of them were talking about the speed in which the storm overtook them. None of them were complaining that they didn’t have time to plan or act to get to safety. Yes, there were issues with their evacuations, the processes and procedures, the lodging and the support system, but none were claiming to have been caught unawares by the storm. This should be a hint.
Emergencies and Disasters, Natural and otherwise
I guess by now you have figured out my premise. Although actual events can occur in the “blink of an eye” most of the time you CAN be prepared for them through proper threat assessment and mitigation. You live in an area constantly hit by tornadoes, you probably know what to expect and when to expect it. If you live in the path of a hurricane then you should probably take heed when evacuation orders are given.
School shooters? Most of them have a long series of mental issues. Since these events are no longer rare school officials really can’t use lack of knowledge of the potential threat as a reason for not being prepared. Car accidents, floods, power outages…the list goes on and on. The point is not that these things don’t happen on a fast time scale, the point is that these things can be planned for and trained for if you are willing to admit to yourself that bad things happen. The point is also that we, as intelligent humans, should know the risks and understand the importance of being prepared.
This is the main problem. People have this odd desire to walk around with their eyes closed. If they can’t see it then it won’t happen. If I just pluck my head in the sand then life will pass me by as if I don’t exist and all of the evils of this world will neglect to destroy my life. This is an ill conceived and dangerous viewpoint that leads to becoming a victim more times than not. Can you be prepared and still be a victim? Certainly. Which one do you think is more likely?
I apologize if this has made anyone upset due to losing someone in one of these disasters, but that still doesn’t change the fact that refusing to pay attention does not eliminate threat.
Plan and Prep