I am a professional emergency manager and have been so for the past 20 years. In all that time, I and my colleagues have been urging members of the public to take the necessary steps to prepare themselves for disasters and emergencies.
Although the media have made a great to-do about the perceived failure of government to pass emergency-alert information during last week’s tsunami warning, the true lesson learned in this event is the continued lack of preparedness by the public.
I was astonished (well, maybe not) to read of people who didn’t live anywhere near identified tsunami flooding areas “heading for the hills” when they received the tsunami warnings. Or people in panic mode crying: “What do we do?” Even in my own neighbourhood, some, having been assured there was no threat, jumped in their cars and headed off to points presumably up-slope.
All members of the public have a responsibility to prepare themselves for an emergency or disaster. Understand the hazards and risks in your local area. Register for community-alert processes. Have an evacuation plan. Have an evacuation “grab and go” bag. Be aware of your surroundings. Take ownership of your preparedness.
Every municipality has excellent information on their websites and available in printed form, on what steps families and individuals should take to be prepared for an emergency. If what we saw last week was a true indicator of our level of personal preparedness, heaven help us when there is a real emergency or disaster.