Watching the footage and the news about Hurricane Sandy over the last few days has been heartbreaking and jaw dropping all at once. Scenes out of New York and New Jersey are surreal, as if they have come straight out of a movie. The devastation and damage are unfathomable. Thousands of families have lost their homes and millions are still left without power.
As devastating as the last week has been, what we learn from the experience helps us move forward. In watching the events unfold from Hurricane Sandy, three important lessons came to me on a personal level, a community level and a planetary level:
- Personal Level – Be Prepared: With more and more natural disasters occurring, it pays to have a personal plan for disaster. Take inventory of your home and property. Look at your yard and assess if there are any trees or limbs in too close of a proximity to your home. If so, cut them down. Check for leaks, both in your roof and in your basement. Check the ratings of your windows to know if they can handle high-speed winds. If not, have them replaced. For things that have significant importance to you, such as pictures or important documents, take out a small storage unit (inland) where you can store duplicate copies so you have another set in case of flooding or fire. Also, consider keeping copies online or on a cloud server, as this provides another method of back-up. Make sure all of your insurance policies are up-to-date and that you are covered for fire, flood-damage and other types of storm protection.
- Community Level – Listen to Authorities: My heart breaks for the many families who chose to “rough it out” in their homes near coastal waters. They believed nothing too damaging could happen and they were better off staying at home. I also sympathize, however, with those political authorities, such as Chris Christie, who firmly asked citizens to evacuate and find shelter inland, but were ignored. As tough as it is to leave your home behind in matters of crisis, it is the responsible and ethical thing to do. Staying behind puts extra pressure on government officials to deal with after-math evacuations instead of getting their towns and cities up and running. The more time that is spent dealing with these types of evacuations, the longer it takes to restore cities back to “normal.” Moreover, staying behind is dangerous to you and potentially other family members who stay with you. You run the risk of injury or worse, death.
- Planetary Level – Take Responsibility: Whether you believe in global climate change or not, evidence continues to mount that our precious planet’s average temperature continues to rise in a seemingly exponential fashion. Some say it is part of the earth’s natural cycles, many believe it is due to the CO2 that we release into our atmosphere as a result of the kinds of energy we use. Burning coal, gas, and oil releases CO2 into the air, which science has shown, heats the atmosphere. As the planet’s temperatures warm, our ice caps melt and our sea levels rise. As our sea levels rise, storms like Sandy have more water at their disposal to produce rain and flood land. This contributes to the erosion of our coastal lands, and the destruction of homes and lives in the process. Although we can’t immediately stop the release of CO2 into the atmosphere, we can institute major changes in the way we produce and consume energy to lessen the impact. But, this has to happen on a global scale. The United States isn’t enough to change the course of climate change. All countries need to take part. What you can do: seriously evaluate the energy efficiency of your home and appliances. Assess your energy sources and whether or not you can rely on renewable sources instead of coal, oil or gas. Look for ways to conserve energy, and support local politicians who are actively looking for ways to help the environment.
What lessons have you learned from Hurricane Sandy? Will you be doing anything different moving forward?