Extreme Weather & Natural Disasters: How Do We Prepare?


By MARIE JONES

For those patiently, or not so patiently, waiting on the explosive year of 2012, and the possible end of the world eluded to in Mayan mythology, the events of the last several months across the globe may have felt like a precursor to the Apocalypse itself.

Even for those who have never heard of, or just simply don’t believe in, the Mayan long count calendar end date of December 21, 2012 and the prophesised catastrophes that will occur on or right before then, the world still appears to be caught up in a maelstrom of chaos that most of us alive today can’t remember ever having experienced before with such frequency and intensity.

Watching events unfold before our collective eyes over the last six months alone, from geopolitical upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya; to the devastating extreme weather events in Australia, the United States and Europe; to the horrific 9 Sendai, Japan mega-quake and tsunami that obliterated thousands of lives and literally changed the balance of the planet (and reminded many of the Feb. 27, 2010 Chilean 8.8 quake/tsunami that killed 524 people) and the 6.3 New Zealand quake that brought death and destruction to Christchurch, I found myself reacting and responding on many different levels.

Most people respond to these kinds of events in fear, and the worse the scenario, the greater the fear. With whispers growing into shouts about what we might expect as we get closer to 2012 and find out exactly what the Mayan civilisation might have been trying to tell us, people are being forced to get out of their comfortable existences and deal with issues that are terrifying to even contemplate.

As the people of Japan, at the writing of this article, deal with potential nuclear reactor meltdown at the Fukushima complex hit hard by the massive quake/tsunami double-punch, many who watch in horror and awe turn to others for advice, leadership and action. We are a species that does not like change, and a species that hates reacting to change even more so.

But we better be prepared for change, because there will always be natural and man-made disasters, uprisings and revolutions, geopolitical shifts and manoeuvrings, and global and national crises, that must be responded to. Always. Even after the events of 2012 come and go, for even the Mayan people did not believe this would be the end of the world… just the end of the world ‘as we know it’. And one might only look at what is happening in Japan right now to realise that our world can change drastically at any time, and we can wake up to a vastly different landscape, internally and externally, than the one we knew the night before. It can change in one instant.

Preparing for Catastrophe

No matter which 2012 scenario people may be expecting, from the reappearance of the mysterious Planet X, to an asteroid impact, to a supervolcanic eruption at Yellowstone in the United States, or the final full disclosure of alien presence and the anarchy it will inspire, big and chaotic things are going to happen between now and December 21, 2012. Whether or not they have anything to do with the Mayan calendar is debatable (and many experts who truly know Mayan culture and lore, including many Mayan elders, will attest that the whole apocalyptic scenario is an overblown media creation designed to sell books, movies and TV shows) these things are happening, and will happen. Every year, somewhere in the world, natural disasters occur, and humans engage in war, uprising and protest. It didn’t begin this year, and it won’t end next year. One might only look back just a generation or two to the revolutionary 1960s, or back further to the horrors of two World Wars, to know that nothing ever remains in stasis for long.

There are events beyond our control, and those that we have some say in. If the rate and intensity of disasters and changes continues, up to 2012 and beyond, we must begin to react proactively and take control of the aspects of the situation that face us, on an individual and collective level. That means being prepared physically, emotionally and yes, even spiritually, for the moment when the rug will be pulled out from under our feet, and we lose our balance.

Preparing for a coming disaster is not what it used to be. Long ago we were told to have three days worth of water and food, extra medicines and even food for our pets. We could be assured of a Red Cross shelter popping up nearby if our own homes were not safe, and we figured if we ran out of food and water, our fellow citizens would help us out. After all, we were united in our suffering.

Once again, things have changed and the new rules of survival are more complex, but once these rules are incorporated and followed, they can help assure we have at least a fighting chance against whatever challenges we face. Following are some ways to prepare yourself, and your loved ones, for the coming ‘end of the world as we know it’. Because the shape of shifts to come aren’t just physical; they will affect us on every level of our being, from how we move about in the brave, new world to how we keep our consciousness at a level that empowers us and refuses to back down in the face of fear and discomfort.

There are three main types of catastrophic events we need to prepare for:

  • Natural and man-made disasters – This includes things like the recent Japanese quake, tsunami and nuclear reactor dangers, and other seismic events such as mega-quakes and volcanic eruptions; flooding and extreme weather events (short-term); bioterrorism or nuclear terrorism; nuclear or toxic accidents; infectious disease pandemics, and anything else that nature or humans can dish out en masse. This can also include local or regional events such as school shootings, bus accidents, train derailments, etc.
  • Geopolitical events – Political uprisings, revolutions, coups and regime changes resulting in violence and riots; invasions and outbreaks of war.
  • Long term challenges – Global climate change; global economic downturn; oil, water and food shortages; massive species die-offs and agricultural impacts.

There will be disasters and events that we simply cannot fully prepare for. The biggest and best earthquake kit in the world could not help many of the dead in Japan, and few of us can outrun a tsunami or a tornado bearing down upon our home without ample warning. Nuclear explosions happen in an instant, and terrorism doesn’t usually come with public warnings that give us time to find our loved ones and protect ourselves from bio-warfare or weapons of mass destruction. If a five-mile wide asteroid hits, or a supervolcano erupts, we may have little more to do than just pray and tell those we love just how much they mean to us. There will be times that all the preparation in the world cannot prepare us for what is to come on any level. But we still must do our best. Knowledge, information and preparation have tremendous power, and should we survive, we can then do the most important thing of all… help others.

Preparing Physically

We can all use a little help from our friends when things go haywire, but nothing trumps knowing how to take care of yourself and your own family first. Emergency training is cheap, often free, and one merely has to go online to find local or regional Red Cross or other disaster preparedness organisations that train in everything from basic response, learning CPR, medical aid and light search and rescue. More detailed training might involve disaster communications and it is highly suggested more people become amateur radio operators, or HAMS, because in the most catastrophic situations, cell phones and landlines will be inoperable. HAMS always get through.

Putting together a basic disaster kit based upon the threats and challenges of the specific area one lives in is also easy, and those who don’t wish to find out what goes into the kit and do it themselves can order ready-made emergency kits of every size online. Ideally, kits should contain enough food and water for two weeks, not the original three days/72 hours once thought appropriate. As the world gets bigger and more complicated, and more populated, resources don’t get where they need to be fast enough in a major emergency, and as we all have seen in many developing countries, sometimes don’t get there at all. The clean up after the devastating Jan. 2010 7.0 Haiti quake is nowhere near being completed. Even developed countries can have a failure of infrastructure, as experienced in the United States after the Category 5 Hurricane Katrina decimated parts of the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Having a two week PER PERSON supply of water and non-perishable foods, as well as necessary medications, change of clothing, makeshift toilet and the proper tools for sheltering in place is a must for any kit. Yet, how many people, even after a major disaster occurs in the world, take the time to go out and do this?

It requires taking responsibility for one’s actions, and reactions… and it can in some situations mean the difference between surviving and thriving… or not surviving at all.

There is abundant help out there in cyberspace, but also at local Red Cross and disaster prep organisations to show you what you need to put together a workable kit. If you don’t have a computer, get to a library or borrow a friend’s, or again, call a local agency for help. Not doing this means added anxiety and chaos when something does happen and you are without adequate food and water for yourself and your loved ones, all because you never took the hour or two to look into building a kit.

People who are lucky enough to own land, or in rural areas, can add to their survival potential by planting food and storing rainwater. If we do, by some stroke of dark fortune, face incredible catastrophe in 2012 or any other year, those who already know how to live off the land will be the most likely to survive.

But having a great kit, being trained in disaster prep and response and knowing how to splint a broken leg with what you have laying about the house is one thing. When chaos ensues, we often fall apart emotionally, if we don’t go into outright shock, thus lessening our chances of making the proper choices and taking action quickly and effectively when everyone around us is clueless.

Preparing Emotionally

According to Deborah Bier, PhD. in Emotional Disaster Preparedness: A Missing Component in Emergency Preparedness, most humans do not prepare for disasters emotionally because humans are “resistant to dealing with the eventuality that all of us face an emergency sometime in our lives, be it personal, local, regional, or nation-wide.” Not only do most people block out the idea of being prepared because they truly don’t have good information, but because they are in denial of their fear and the need to “fix things before they are broken.” But, Bier suggests, especially in a world where the media focuses on those who do NOT respond well, as opposed to those who do, we increase our chances of survival when we focus on risk readiness and psychological readiness BEFORE a disaster strikes.

Most of us say we are too busy to think about disasters until they strike. But it only takes a little time to get online and research psychological resilience and emotional readiness that can help us take the steps to get through the worst of times, even if we are currently experiencing the best of times. Bier goes on to say that emotional disaster preparedness can help us have a sense of normal anticipation of events by talking about the range of feelings one might experience; reduce anxiety with coping skills; worry when we need to, and about what we need to, and avoid abnormal worries; normalise our post-disaster emotions so we know what to expect and how to get through the shock and distress; get the whole family unit into action; and figure out a recovery strategy.

According to ActAlliance, an online community based psychosocial support site, researchers agree that individuals go through distinct emotional phases during a disaster. The first phase is the acute phase, also known as the survival mode, where individuals are doing what it takes to keep themselves and their family alive and out of danger. The second phase is the reaction phase, where individuals and organisations assess the damage and any injuries, relationships are functional as individuals and groups engage in emergency medical care, search and rescue. The third phase is called the recovery phase, where emergency personnel and disaster management teams take control to keep the response and rescue organised and coordinated, and individuals try to create a new normalcy as soon as possible. The final stage is the reorientation phase, where survivors are dealing with the stresses and frustration of rescue and they may feel as if things aren’t moving quickly enough.

Being prepared physically often leads to stronger and more proactive emotional reactions during high stress times. Focus on survival from the inside out – caring for yourself first, then for your family, your neighbourhood and your world. Taking on the entire weight of the world immediately will derail you. Take time to cry, scream, grieve and mourn, but don’t let it immobilise you if action needs to be taken.

Stick to reliable news sources and avoid YouTube videos and sketchy reports from websites that offer no source materials. Don’t buy into fear from other people with their own ideas of what might be happening and how to survive. Cult behaviour and mob mentality have no place in true disaster preparedness.

Preparing Spiritually

Perhaps the most important preparation occurs before, long before, any disaster, and yet it is the one area most neglected. Preparing for the ‘end of the world as we know it’ involves deep spiritual work that many people find uncomfortable, and maybe even more frightening than the potential of death itself. When we come to terms with our fears, our beliefs and our faith, we find a foundation that we can stand upon no matter what might be happening around us. Even if the earth is shaking and the winds are howling, or revolution and war is in the air, having a deep and unshakeable faith in our own ability to handle what we are asked to handle can serve as a tool to keep our own sanity and help those around us keep theirs as well.

Before the disaster, we must face and examine our own beliefs about death, suffering and why things happen, and we must come to a point of acceptance of those beliefs. If we say we believe one thing about death, or about human suffering, but fear it or contradict that belief deep in our hearts, we will find ourselves reacting from that same fear once disaster strikes. Sometimes, even the most religiously devout people still crumble in fear when looking into the face of death, and that is human. Everyone is afraid, but a core that is strong in both a physical and spiritual sense can help us move away from the fear sooner, and begin to respond proactively and positively.

During a catastrophe, we will go into shock. But we must, as soon as we are able to, face and accept the reality of the situation, as grave as it may be, all the while keeping our faith and our hope alive, no matter how bleak. It is a precarious balance and hard to achieve, but an empowering balance from which to move forward. If you believe in God, lean on God. Pray, talk to God, ask for guidance and follow it. If you are atheist trust your own resilience and remind yourself of the times in life you overcame adversity and obstacles. If you are agnostic, hold onto the sense of a bigger picture, even if you cannot name it or identify it, and see yourself as an integral part of that picture as you help yourself and then others.

We are hearing more and more prophecies and predictions for utter doom come 2012, and no doubt the days leading up to that point will be filled with chaos for many. And no doubt the days following 2012 will continue to challenge us with global, regional and local unrest, natural and human in origin, that will push us outside of our comfort zones and ask us to ‘adapt or die’, ‘change or perish’. Having a strong and powerful belief in our own inner strength, and a connection to something bigger than ourselves, will help keep us grounded when the world itself seems to have come off its moorings.

For many people, when things happen that they cannot wrap their minds around, it helps to detach from the emotional and psychic overload, to stand back and be an observer. From this standpoint we get a better perspective of what is happening and our role in it. Witnessing is a powerful way to be in the world, but not of it; to act out of strength and not despair, hopelessness and terror. To take that one step further, we can stay in a powerful spiritual response mode when we do our best to avoid fear mongering. Facts and knowledge are empowering. Even if the facts are not in our favour, knowing them gives us the advantage of coming up with a workable strategy to try to turn that advantage around, rather then get caught up in a negative and disempowering mentality of doom saying and fatalism.

An example of this occurred right after the Japan quake, when social networking sites were going haywire with both solid information and wild speculation. By focusing on the news from the most reliable sources we can find, we stay truly informed and removed from the fear of others.

Being prepared physically, emotionally and spiritually still won’t keep bad things from happening. They are happening, and will continue to do so, and if some of the prophets and predictions about 2012 prove right, will do so in increasing intensity. But we have the edge. Human beings are amazingly resilient. There may be times when it seems as though the world is coming to a crashing and fiery end, but it will not end us, at least not without a fight.

In a book I wrote with my father, geophysicist Dr. John M. Savino titled Supervolcano: The Catastrophic Event That Changed the Course of Human History, we discussed the super-eruption of Toba in Indonesia approximately 75,000 years ago, creating a six year ‘nuclear winter’ in its aftermath. At that time, perhaps 100,000 human individuals existed. Toba’s super-eruption wiped out up to 90% of those individuals, in what is called a ‘population bottleneck’ that can often lead to full on extinction if the species cannot recover. After Toba, there were only between 2,000 and 10,000 of our ancestors left.

Today the human population borders on the seven billion mark.

We will, no matter how arrogant we may be, never control nature. But we can control our humanity, our reactions, our preparedness, our attitudes and our behaviour. If we do not take responsibility for taking better care of ourselves, our communities, and our planet, then yes, it won’t take long before we become a big part of the Sixth Great Extinction as one of the many species that will never be seen or heard from again.

The choice is ours.

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MARIE D. JONES is a best-selling author, screenwriter, researcher, radio show host and public speaker. She is the author of 2013: End Of Days Or A New Beginning- Envisioning The World After The Events Of 2012, Psience – How New Discoveries In Quantum Physics And New Science May Explain The Existence Of Paranormal Phenomena, and Looking For God In All The Wrong Places. Marie’s latest book is Destiny Vs. Choice: The Scientific And Spiritual Evidence Behind Fate And Free Will. She co-authored a number of books with Larry Flaxman including The Déjà vu Enigma: A Journey Through the Anomalies of Mind, Memory and Time, The Resonance Key: Exploring the Links Between Vibration, Consciousness and the Zero Point Grid, and 11:11 – The Time Prompt Phenomenon: The Meaning Behind Mysterious Signs, Sequences and Synchronicities. Larry and Marie are partners in a venture called ParaExplorers and can be reached at www.paraexplorers.com. Marie’s website is www.mariedjones.com.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 126 (May-June 2011).

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