Each individual has a certain capacity and defined expectations for the support we will receive in a disaster. When we need a bandage strip, we expect it to be in the first aid kit. When we call for help, we expect someone to come running. When we dial 9-1-1, we expect someone to answer. When we need an ambulance, we expect it to arrive right away. When these things do not happen, some of us are capable of handling the situation, others are not. As an event grows in scope (more people, more distance, more impact), the assistance available from first responders (like police and fire departments) and friends and family diminishes -- as it is divided among more and more people in need, the help gets spread too thin.
The good news is that local, state, and federal governments are working hard to learn, prepare, and practice making the best use of limited resources. Departments are planning ahead to share resources and assist one another in times of need. In the midst of tough economic times Emergency Managers are getting creative and downright frugal to prepare for the risks that our communities face.
Take a minute to think about what you could tolerate for a day or two or three... At my house a power outage is never a problem, UNTIL it occurs in below breezing weather. Flooding wouldn't affect my home, but could keep my husband from coming home from work. If an ice storm stopped all transportation, how long could we go without going to the store? What if when we got there, the store was empty. What if an earthquake destroyed our water supply for a week... a month? I am prepared to handle situations within my tolerance, but I must plan for those catastrophes that exceed my tolerance. I can buy equipment (a generator, a water filter.) I can stock up (candles, kerosene heaters, bottled water, canned food.) I can ask for help (Making plans for special assistance you might need is always prudent.) I can train to take care of myself and friends and family (Red Cross First Aid and FEMA Disaster Training).
What about you? What have you done to build a framework of support to help you when things go wrong?