Don’t reap the whirlwind; be prepared

Robert Bowman, co-coordinator of the Chico Emergency Preparedness Expo, is a professor emeritus in the Music Department at Chico State University and a concert pianist.

Expo info:
The Chico Emergency Preparedness Expo will be held Saturday (May 3) at 2430 Mariposa Ave. (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free.

Let’s face it; it is hard to get worked up about potential emergencies when the weather is beautiful.

Remember Katrina? “Horrible,” people say, “but that would never happen here.” Yet, January’s storm in the North State generated sobering statistics:

• 78,000 homes in Butte County without power—and, if served by wells, without water—for two to eight days;

• 15 homes destroyed by falling trees, with 200 homes damaged;

• 298,000 almond trees destroyed;

• 300+ power poles downed;

• 50 people in care shelters for half a week or more, and countless others who lost food in their freezers and refrigerators;

• two fatalities in Yuba City.

Emergency preparedness experts in our county say more extreme weather is on the way, probably because of climate change.

Windstorms are only one kind of challenge. What if we have one or more major forest fire in Paradise, Cohasset or Forest Ranch, or floods from breached levees in the Delta, with a resultant influx of homeless refugees? What about possible failures of Shasta or Oroville dams (possibly from earthquakes); toxic spills; summer brown-outs, or gasoline shortages, with a resultant scarcity of food and essentials?

In addition, world economic conditions are rapidly deteriorating with massive food shortages (and resultant riots) in 14 third-world countries. Food and gasoline prices have skyrocketed in the U.S. There are reports of major retailers limiting purchases of flour, rice and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. Add to that home foreclosures, high unemployment, high consumer debt and the falling value of the dollar.

Cause for concern? You bet!

On the bright side, Butte County is fortunate to have excellent, dedicated first responders and emergency preparedness personnel. But they are facing funding and staffing shortages and, at best, can only address the most serious emergencies.

So it is essential that we get ready now to ensure that individuals, families and neighborhoods can respond effectively and humanely to whatever comes.

A first step is to get better informed, such as by attending the Chico Community Emergency Preparedness Expo.

The next step is to store enough food, water and essentials to ride out an emergency.

Then we need to organize our neighborhoods. With 71 neighborhoods organized through the Neighborhood Watch Program, it makes sense to use this structure.

Finally, we need to start growing our own food, utilizing local farmers more; organize community gardens, and develop alternative energy sources.

If we don’t take proactive steps now, we well might have our own Katrina down the road.