As 2020 approaches, it is time to plan our resolutions for the new year. With so many choices, prioritizing them is a problem. I read an article in the Dec. 16 issue of Monitor Weekly discussing the failure of recovery efforts after the last few hurricanes to strike our South and islands to the south and east. During the last several years, we really failed to meet the needs of those who lost everything but the clothes on their backs. These were mostly poor to begin with who couldn’t afford insurance, let alone a storm-proof home. Too many still have literally almost nothing.

It occurs to me that we, as a nation and a world, need to be far better prepared for whatever disaster is most likely to occur in one’s home area. This requires a lot of advance planning. Everyone needs escape routes, sources of pure water and food and medical care to be immediately available. Then we move to the next steps such as rescue, recovery and long-term shelters for those totally bereft of the possibility of returning home.

If I were a disaster relief czar, I would establish widely scattered warehouses stocked with the most immediate needs to start the process of recovery. I’d establish a first in, first out process so the goods with a limited shelf life are fresh and ready to use. Beyond that we should create contact lists of people, companies, wholesales etc. so we can quickly locate additional required items.

The next step is planning how to transport vital supplies to affected sites quickly and distribute them to victims, then provide transport out for those needing longer term care and help with life’s daily routines or with special needs such as insulin. Some of these disasters give us warning enough for the local responders to move in needed items ahead of time. For instance, in advance of a predicted disaster, we should buy a supply of portable oxygen machines to distribute to people needing oxygen to stay alive.

Between disasters, we should develop plans to reach isolated populations with only one access road in and with no alternative way to reach them. Let’s give priority to projects that would provide a second access point. We may need to clear space for a helipad to land choppers with relief supplies and evacuate the injured. Portable cell phone and radio equipment for communication should be in place throughout the possible affected areas.

On the western side of the U.S., we have vulnerable populations to different disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunami, and fires. We need not only planned escape routes, but safe shelters stocked with essentials for those unable to escape. These types of disasters rarely give warning so the essentials need to be stored within reach.

In recent years, the news has been full of incidents of failures of planning and preparation that caused needless loss of life. With global warming causing more flooding and rising sea levels, we should be giving more thought to zoning, planning and general public policy concerning where we build, and maybe more importantly, rebuild. I can understand those who resent having their insurance premiums rise because of the costs, not only of rebuilding, but rebuilding the rebuilds. Too often we have failed to heed the warnings and continue to repeat our previous mistakes. It isn’t just storm damage. It’s also cliffs crumbling into the ocean threatening houses built with a sea view. The access roads are crumbling there too.

Summing up, let’s heed the warnings and begin to plan for a safer future. Recognize needs and set aside needed resources well in advance in places sufficiently scattered throughout not only our country, but throughout the world. This would also improve our ability to prevent mass migrations of displaced persons. Let’s also create a world with no more refugees from man-made disasters like war and conflict. We must lead an international global effort.

Lenna Harding lived her first 20 and past 43 years in Pullman. A longtime League of Women Voters member, she served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board.

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