Most of us have never experienced a natural disaster. Though we’re frequently mesmerized by the news surrounding them, disaster coverage seems more like a reality show than something that will ever affect our lives. This list breaks down three myths about natural disasters and what you can do about them.
1. The lull in hurricanes means disasters are decreasing
It’s true that we’re in the longest “hurricane drought” in recorded history. Hurricane Matthew, which battered the Caribbean and the coastline from Florida to North Carolina in October 2016, was the first major hurricane to come ashore in a decade. But not all deadly disasters have names.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 15 weather disasters in 2016 that caused more than a billion dollars of destruction. Last year’s disasters resulted in over $46 billion in damages — the second highest number of billion-dollar disasters in recorded history.
The United States experiences hundreds of natural disasters each year. The chances that a disaster could hit you or your family are increasing instead of decreasing.
2. The government takes care of the costs after a disaster
As disasters have increased, disaster-related government programs and funding have gotten stronger, at both the federal and state level. But much of the government money goes to big infrastructure projects, such as roads and buildings. Government programs that support individuals have limits on how much they can give and for what kinds of activities. That is where private contributions and voluntary actions come in.
Foundations and corporations offer a wide array of support, from cash donations, to donations of products and services, to applying the skills of their employees to tackling tough problems. Financial contributions from individuals to disaster-related activities total hundreds of millions every year. Nonprofit and faith-based organizations are usually the first responders when disaster strikes and often remain on the scene for months and even years afterwards. Their work is led by volunteers — ordinary citizens like you and me — who take time out of our busy lives to help fellow citizens.
Think of disaster-related funding as a mosaic. It requires a combination of contributions from government at all levels, corporations, foundations, nonprofits and individuals to be effective.
3. I can’t protect myself against Mother Nature
Some types of disasters, like hurricanes, give you days to prepare. But earthquakes, cloudbursts or tornadoes can appear with little advance warning. It’s easy to think that nature is too unpredictable to do anything about it. But that’s a myth. There’s plenty you can do to plan and prepare for disasters.
First, think about the likely disasters that can affect you and your community, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or wild fires. Second, make a plan for your likely disasters. Do you have a way to keep in touch with your kids? Should you store food and water? Just a little bit of planning can save you lots of trouble in the long run. Third, stay weather aware and take a few minutes every day to check the forecast. Emergency management experts tell us that one of the biggest problems with disasters is that people don’t pay enough attention to warnings and orders to evacuate.
Sooner or later we’ll be involved in a natural disaster. Take action now to help yourself, your family and your community prepare.
Robert G. Ottenhoff, President and CEO, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, [email protected]