Hurricane Flossie is on the way, and Hawaii residents prepare for the worst. People behave predictably. Frantic shoppers pack grocery stores, buying out every last bottle of water, canned good, and toilet paper roll. Lines of cars idle outside gas stations as stressed drivers wait to fill their tanks.
This is a familiar scene every time a natural threat approaches the Hawaiian islands, where I live. Because so many residents do not keep a recommended amount of food, water and gasoline reserved for an emergency situation, their last-minute panic buying repeatedly leads to depletion of these important supplies.
Isolation is part of what makes Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and other islands in the Pacific Ocean “paradise,” but it also adds to the danger since it takes longer to get outside help when disaster strikes.
Furthermore, the Pacific islands are far from “pacific,” or peaceful. Living in the “Ring of Fire,” residents live year round with the threat of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, wildfires, tropical storms and landslides.
Of course, disaster can strike anywhere, and people everywhere can make it a lot easier – and safer – for themselves and others if they take a few basic steps to prepare before disaster looms.
September is National Preparedness Month, and I encourage you to be ready -- whether you live on an island or the mainland. The website of The Ready Campaign offers lots of great guidance.
For example, it details how to build a Basic Disaster Supplies Kit. Households on the mainland are urged to include food and water for three days. On the Pacific islands the recommendation is to reserve supplies for five to seven days because of the extra time it takes to restock them.
Here’s another tip: While preparing this month, be sure to make a list of organizations you can contact for help and/or to volunteer in an emergency – then keep in contact with them throughout the year. Many will have Facebook and Twitter sites. Examples include your local church, active community organizations, and schools near your home. Your state or community VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) is also a great resource.
Back to Hurricane Flossie for a moment. I participate in the Hawaii State Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), and I am glad to report that the VOAD and its members did a great job preparing for Flossie’s arrival. Red Cross shelters were activated, and volunteers in various organizations from all over the United States were on standby. Fortunately, Flossie weakened and caused much less damage than we had feared – and we got valuable practice preparing for future threats.
Ku’ulei Funn is an Emergency Response Specialist with Church World Service. She lives in Honolulu.