Know what to do when disaster strikes

By Kyle Gowen

Just as New Orleanians always knew that a worst-case scenario would eventually transpire, we Memphians are similarly aware of an inevitable disaster. Sadly, I am concerned that the parallels will not end in our pre-disaster thinking. According to the Memphis Geological Society, there is a 25%–40% chance of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake on the New Madrid fault over the next 50 years. Disregarding your belief/nonbelief in statistics, when an earthquake happens here, one of two things will happen in an ideal scenario. Either each resident will, at a minimum, be adequately prepared to go without power, running water, medical aid, and a sense of security for at least 48 hours, or our trustworthy Memphis City Government will appear atop a white horse on a rainbow and shower everyone with videogame health points so we are fully revitalized. Take your pick.

Now, I could try my hardest to conjure up scenes of the Apocalypse, but to stay in reality, please just take a look around in 2010: Haiti, January 2nd, magnitude 7.0; Russia, February 18th, 6.9; Japan, February 26th, 7.0; Chile, February 27th, 8.8; and Mexico, April 4th, 7.2. Heck, there was a 3.8 magnitude quake northwest of Chicago in early February.

I assume most disinterested readers have turned the page, so to those rational souls left, the question is what to do. To combat our ill-preparedness, the safety arm of the Cooper-Young Community Association will be rolling out an educational campaign to give our residents the best chance possible of survival and rescue. This initiative basically boils down to two paths of action, one that the community as a whole must take and the other that must be treaded by the individual households. On a neighborhood level, certain responsibilities must be met, such as coordinating a meeting place for those displaced or who lack appropriate shelter. Interaction with the relevant government entities is a necessity, as well.

However, the majority of tasks fall on the individual household. It would be wise to teach all family members where to terminate the flow of water and gas. Anointing an out-of-town friend or relative to serve as a communication base is another beneficial move. Yet, one simple act that will prove unbelievably fruitful during the time of crisis is to have a box that contains the most basic elements of survival: matches, water, a first-aid kit, imperishable food, a flashlight, a battery-operated radio, and some simple tools. It is these essential items that could literally prove life or death in a catastrophe. For more information on the requisite steps, please visit the FEMA website or be on the lookout for future correspondence from your Community Association. If anyone is interested in assisting with this noble grassroots effort, do not hesitate to contact the Safety Chairman at

So please, if you do not want to do it for yourself, do it for your spouse, your kids, your pet, or even your unprepared neighbor. Of course there is always a chance that the City will save the day, but we all know better. So in the words of the great Michal Buffer, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”


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