Earlier this year I collaborated with Berkeley’s OES (Office of Emergency Services) on a version of Lotería for disaster preparedness. The idea was to make something bilingual that would help families and kids identify necessary items and actions, and to make something scary feel more like a game that can be “won”. Our version (made with a simpler game board for shorter activities) was called “Está Listo? Lotería!”, and was part of my Kala Print Public Fellowship project.
In light of recent disasters, most particularly the chilling footage from the September 19 earthquake in Mexico, I’ve found myself on edge again this week. If it weren’t already abundantly clear from my various projects addressing disaster and collapse, these realities have become an ongoing subject of consternation/interest to me. I’m not big on fear–it seems like a waste of time–but I am enthusiastic about being prepared and empowered.
Having first responders among my family and friends as of recent years has really clarified for me how serious the odds are, and how limited any immediate governmental response will be. There are only so many fire stations; there are only so many other emergency responders. In every recent disaster, victims have been upset that the government wasn’t doing enough fast enough to help them. This is the rule, not the exception.
So, shout-out to my fellow Californians:
Get your shit together. Please. Earthquakes and fires are real.
Have an emergency plan and supplies. Bolt stuff down. Get that extra extinguisher. Get NERT, CERT or CORE training. Get basic first aid training. Stop disconnecting your smoke alarms. Stop twiddling your thumbs and hoping someone else will deal with this for you. We will ALL need to be ready to take care of ourselves and our neighbors in an emergency.
Here are a couple of simple, helpful resources at ready.gov to get you started:
And here are links to where you can sign up for free emergency preparedness classes in SF, Berkeley and Oakland:
The SF program is NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team):
Berkeley is CERT(Community Emergency Response Team):
Oakland is CORE (Communities of Oakland Respond to Emergency):
Many parts of California and the US call their programs “CERT”, so use that term if you’re searching for a program elsewhere.
Please don’t avoid this because you don’t have the capacity to prepare everything right now. You don’t have to become a hardcore doomsday prepper: I’m certainly not. Honestly, I don’t have the ultimate emergency preparedness set-up yet either, but I constantly chip away at it in little ways: buying an extra gallon of water or a couple extra cans of food when I’m in a position to lug it over from the store. A transistor radio purchase here; a flashlight purchase there. Re-reading my NERT manual since I’m still not 100% confident about how to do things like shut off my building’s gas valve if there’s a leak, or how to clear someone’s airway if they’re not breathing.
Last thoughts before I end this post:
Taking a little action now is so worthwhile; anything is better than nothing, and feeling helpful is always better than feeling helpless. Start with learning or accumulating small things and don’t expect to be the perfect hero, but just give it a go. And there are many ways to take care of yourself and others, so think about your particular abilities and how best to use them: while I used to joke that my ability to make funny cartoon drawings wasn’t going to save anyone, I’ve actually manage to translate my illustration skills into projects that might actually be of help. Who knew?