Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 7, 2012

Scout Report: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

By Clinton Gill
Glade Sun editor

CROSSVILLE — Mother nature’s fury is in the news yet again, this time under the guise of “Sandy.” In the days leading up to the super storm making landfall, analysts had already labeled it as the “storm of the century.” Some called it “Frankenstorm.” One meteorologist from the National Weather Service even offered his personal contact information in an effort to get people to heed the warnings, stating “If you think the storm is over-hyped and exaggerated, please err on the side of caution. You can call me up on Friday and yell at me all you want.” Sandy was the most powerful storm in modern history, even more mighty than Hurricane Katrina. In fact, it generated twice the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb!

In spite of the storm’s strength, the toll in human life has been significantly less than Katrina. So far Sandy has claimed 110 lives, compared to 1,833 from the southern storm. Luckily the damage was mostly limited to infrastructure. However, the effects of the storm are long from being over. It left over 50 million people without power, destroyed thousands of homes and left tens of thousands of people homeless. Some people will be without power for up to a month. With temperatures dropping below freezing and a shortage of food and water, the cost in human lives is sure to go up.

Despite all the warnings leading up to Sandy’s arrival, many people chose to disregard the danger and went about their normal lives. I'm referring more to those who were affected by the aftermath of the storms, rather than those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. To be clear, sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, just ask the folks in Breezy Point. Circumstances notwithstanding, reports surfaced that after only three days, some New Yorkers were digging in dumpsters to find food. The reporter covering the story noted that many passersby would take a picture of the dumpster divers on their cell phones before joining them. Generally speaking, people living in poverty, the kind of poverty that solicits prowling through a dumpster for food, do not own cell phones. How long would you go without food before digging through a dumpster? Obviously their level of preparedness was not sufficient. 

As seen in New Orleans in 2005, society can break down quickly in the absence of resources. The government’s response has been less than desirable, but to be fair, there isn’t any organization that is equipped to respond to disaster on such a large scale. It takes time to get people the things they need and to rebuild. That is why it is important for people to rely on themselves first and foremost. Being prepared for what life can throw at you can mean the difference between life and death. Those who rely on others for help may be left wanting.

Certainly there are times where we have no choice, but the more we do, the better your chance of surviving. The Center for Disease Control launched a public service campaign last year to raise awareness for the importance of preparing for emergencies, using the popularity of the zombie craze that has swept the nation. The CDC recommended doing things such as stocking up on nonperishable  food, water (one gallon per person per day), tools like duct tape and parachute cord, battery powered radios and blankets. Getting ready for the zombie apocalypse may make one seem like they are out of sorts, but by doing so they will also be prepared for any other catastrophic event that may occur, such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

Getting ready for the unknown is not only wise in the context of emergency preparedness, but in life in general. Aesop’s Fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper is a good illustration of the virtues of anticipating necessity:

"One summer’s day, a merry Grasshopper was dancing, singing and playing his violin with all his heart. He saw an Ant passing by, bearing along with great toil a wheatear to store for the winter.

'Come and sing with me instead of working so hard', said the Grasshopper 'Let’s have fun together.'

'I must store food for the winter,' said the Ant, 'and I advise you to do the same.'

'Don’t worry about winter, it’s still very far away,' said the Grasshopper, laughing at him. But the Ant wouldn’t listen and continued his toil.

When the winter came, the starving Grasshopper went to the Ant’s house and humbly begged for something to eat.

'If you had listened to my advice in the summer you would not now be in need,' said the Ant. 'I’m afraid you will have to go supperless to bed,' and he closed the door."

Being properly prepared puts you in the position to  help others, both directly and indirectly, if you so choose. Being responsible for yourself frees up resources, as well as allowing you to become a responder rather than a victim. It puts you in the position to help others in their time of need, rather than having to rely on the benevolence of an ant.

While many of the folks in the northeast may have  failed to prepare for the worst, there are countless others that no amount of preparation would have helped. As the temperature drops, and a Nor'easter threatens to make the situation worse, we need to remember the millions of our fellow Americans who have been affected by these storms; many of whom are left homeless and hungry. We should not look on them as the Ant to the Grasshopper, rather as brothers and sisters who need help.