The news as of late does a great job reminding me why preparedness really does need to be an everyday focus. We’ve clearly seen that we can’t stop thinking about preparedness just because we are going on a vacation to Paris. Look at the consequences that so many are enduring all because of the winter season behaving like a winter season. How about all of the travelers all over the world that were stranded in 2010, all because a volcano in Iceland from across the ocean blew its top?
So, today I chose to review the 10 Principles of Preparedness, and see if or how they applied to the scenario of a stranded traveler, because we sure are seeing all kinds of "stranded scenarios" not the least of which taking place in airports all over the world. It doesn't take much to interrupt as vulnerable of a system as mass transit is in our world, and Mother Nature definitely has the upperhand on what happens when we travel. So, when the second major snowstorm, in less than a month, has paralyzed neighborhoods all over the U.S., I thought it would be a great time to look at which aspects of Preparedness we need to consider in the interest of being prepared for such an occassion.
Principle #1: Spiritual Preparedness: Yup. It’s very trying as we are forced to make friends with hundreds of strangers amidst such vulnerable and stressful circumstances. To put it simply, ones belief system will provide a measure of sanity and peace that simply won't come from ANYTHING else amidst this kind of crisis.
Principle #2: Mental Preparedness: Yup. A great trial for many in such circumstances is finding ways to occupy their mind instead of dwelling on changing that which they are powerless to change. Some were well served by thinking soon enough of alternative ways to travel to their desired destination. Some were well served by mentally anticipating possible obstacles on their trip and having contingencies. Their skills and mental fortitude will enable them to ride out this curve ball that life has thrown them with very little inconvenience.
Principle #3: Physical Preparedness: Yes, it does indeed come into play here. There are a great many physical challenges that come into play when one becomes sleep deprived or are unable to feed their dependence on cigarettes, caffeine, and other stimulants that shall remain nameless. Physical Preparedness also includes one’s personal physical safety and security. I’ll never forget the stories I read from some of the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, and what crimes women and even children were subjected to while seeking safety and refuge in the various places of shelter.
Principle #4: Medical Preparedness: This is where things become emotionally taxing quickly. For those who took just enough medication on their trip, there could be more serious problems looming because they will run out early, or they packed the lions share of it in their checked luggage. (Something I would NEVER do for security purposes, but I know it still happens). I wonder what the newspaper stories would read like if all they did was focus on the medical needs that the travel interruptions caused? That would be eye-opening, wouldn’t it? Imagine all of the thousands and thousands of dollars being spent by stranded passengers as they have to rely on ambulatory or emergency services all because of this unprecedented travel delay. To make matters worse, the availability of something as simple as water and reliable sanitation services is the first to break down in such a scenario like this. Airports and other mass transit services are designed to move people, not to give them food, water, clothing, bed, and non-stop toilets. Imagine how easily the crumbling infrastructure will manifest itself in the sewer systems of the airports? I cringe to think that there may be persons traveling who are ill and contagious and who are spreading it to the masses that they are now stranded with in the airports, bus terminals, and train stations. The norovirus broke out in alarming numbers amidst the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in the shelters. (see http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5440a3.htm)
Principle #5: Clothing/Shelter Preparedness: This particular problem has always been one of the most taxing upon travel hubs such as the airports and hospitality services in the cities where travelers are stranded. Surely you’ve experienced trying to get a room in a seemingly large town only to get constantly turned away because of a high school soccer meet that’s in town, right? If high school soccer had the ability to light up all of the “No Vacancy” signs in a city, imagine what an airport clogged with hundreds of thousands of passengers can do in 3 minutes.
Simply having a place to sleep in safety is sorely compromised in stranded travel scenarios as tempers flare, people fight over the last remaining chair, spot on the carpeted floor, as they are subjected to the continual announcements from the loudspeakers and televisions, etc. Worth mentioning again is the aspect of sanitation that is causing an enormous taxation on the available facilities. I’ve frequently read of passengers begging for something as simple as a towel so that they can bathe suitably in a sink. Imagine the plight of the mothers with their children in tow who ran out of diapers, never foreseeing this series of events. Or a handful of persons who are experiencing flu-like symptoms? Yep…your airport could quickly become a shelter of toxic smells real fast under the “wrong” set of circumstances.
Principle #6:Fuel Preparedness; Well of course it applies to this scenario as well. (Remember, fuel also entails one’s own physical exertion as well) Many stranded passengers have claimed to experience a thickness in the air that feels sticky, and hot. Let’s hope the furnaces or air conditioners don’t malfunction during a crisis like this. Typically, even the busiest of airports get a bit of a break overnight to recirculate all of the air, uninhibited, which aerates all of the well-used air. But in a stranded traveler situation, the air is getting recycled at the same pace as it usually is, with no consideration for any increased demands. And as best as I can tell, there’s not a single airport in operation that takes this particular problem into consideration.
Principles #7 and #8: Water and Food Preparedness: Water and food needs are definitely going unmet—for all ages. Think of the parents with children in tow, who planned to only need to feed the kids for a day or so during their travels. Now all of the sudden they’ve got to pay top dollar just for the most basic of nutrition while they wait out this act of nature—and that’s assuming that what the fussy eaters want is actually available. Supplies are taxed to their limit as most of the travelers attempt to stay inside the airport in hopes that they are able to get out sooner. This means that they are having to pay top dollar for their food. I’m sure that many stranded travelers wish they had stashed just a little bit more “just in case” food, or purchased that bottled water when they had the chance.
Since I have 4 dogs, I cringe at the thought that some stranded travelers are having to endure these circumstances with a furry companion nearby. If humans are having a hard time with the sanitation, you can bet that Fido is going to have a hard time relieving himself as is necessary as well. Worse still, in my opinion, would be if my canine family members have to stay put in the cargo area for unexpected and unplanned hours which will surely impact the animals long after their anti-anxiety medication wears off. How absolutely stressful this scenario must be for owners and pets alike!
Principle #9: Financial Preparedness: That’s a big fat YES this is going to impact travelers! Who would have thought that the forced stay in the airport would take up nearly as much money as the entire trip?! And yet, that is what many passengers have reported in past “stranded” experiences—not to mention the terrible financial hit that the airports are taking in losing over $200 million dollars per day! One really bad weather related delay can cost the airline industry as much as $2 billion in one day. No wonder they get a little stingy about handing out peanuts, blankets, and pillows, to their stranded travelers.
Those who work for the airlines no doubt will receive some type of compensation during their forced stay on the ground, but imagine the trickle effect that this grounding has on employed persons—even if the weather clears up, you’ve now got pilots who have to have a mandatory rest period before they can get back in the air again. The consequences of this delay bring not only lost revenue, but unrecoverable revenue to an industry and a working class of people that can ill abide it.
Principle #10: Communication Preparedness: All I can say is thank goodness there are still pay phones at most airports. But let’s say your cell phone dies and loses all of its power, how are you going to make use of the available pay phones when you’ve come to rely strictly on your electronic device for contact information? I still have phone numbers of my friends from high school memorized, but I’ll be darned if I presently have the phone numbers memorized of all of my siblings. That’s bad, right? Wake up call moment! I vow that I will memorize the phone numbers of all of my siblings this week!
Moving on… imagine what would happen if there’s suddenly a shortage of batteries functioning in cell phones. Instead of getting robbed for your wallet, your still-functioning cell phone becomes a desperately sought after product. It’s surprising to me to see how many people still fail to carry a phone charger ON THEIR PERSON when traveling long distances. Even the simplest of communication between one human being and another is important to our mental and physical survival; it’s more therapeutic that any assurances over the loud speaker that the flight is now ready to board.
I knew a gal several years ago who had 11 children. Yep, 11! And as a result, whenever she and her husband were to fly anywhere, they insisted on booking separate flights, on separate airlines for each of them so that if there ever was an airplane crash, they weren’t leaving all of their kids without a parent. Now THAT’S thinking ahead!
Well, I think I’ve made a strong enough case to encourage us all to stop and think before we take that simple, harmless, little trip. There is much that can go wrong amidst an industry that still isn’t ready to handle all of those scenarios. As one who believes in being prepared, I consider it my job to be as prepared for these realities as possible.
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