Sunday, June 18, 2006

Austin is unprepared for a large-scale emergency

The Pink Dome found a Statesman article that identifies Austin as inadequately prepared for a major disaster or emergency. Coincidentally on this same day the Flu Wiki has turned one year old. My comment on Pink Dome describes why the Flu Wiki is a useful template for community driven preparedness for a multitude of disasters.

We should all take a moment to read the Flu Wiki put together as a non-partisan information site to organize community-level responses to a potential flu pandemic. The idea here is that we won't be able to rely on a centralized support system in the event of an emergency, and a number of parallels to other disasters (natural and otherwise) can be made to a flu pandemic outbreak. Do you think you can hole up in your house with your Tamiflu prescription and ride it out? What happens when Austin's water plant is shut down because nobody is healthy enough to service it? Can you survive for a month without going to the grocery store? The discussions of community-level preparedness aren't some mormon fantasy of armageddon, but rather a very sober view of what minimal effort could be done in the community to prepare for a major event.
When I return to Austin I hope to do more research in the fall to organize my HOA into some semblance of emergency readiness, in the least trying to identify community self sufficiency such as:
  • the existence of local doctors willing to service community needs & minor emergencies in the event of overcrowding in ERs.
  • the capacity of our local water supply, and what it takes to maintain it.
  • local ham radio hobbyists willing to help keep our community informed in the event of extended power outages (Austin recently had a complete network outage for Cingular wireless customers after a heavy storm. Extended power outages could easily disrupt broadcast radio and TV as well as phone systems and internet).
Of course I tend to get caught up in work & play without having time to do these side projects, but I want to accomplish a minimal goal of collecting information about our community's willing volunteers. After a recent family experience with emergency room overcrowding, even during an off-season, it's apparent that we need some form of local self-sufficiency.

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