Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina, Part 2

For many years to come, there will be the telling of thousands of stories about Hurricane Katrina, each one with its own color and shades of pain, or joy. For some, it will be years before they are able to speak of it. Others, freely give. As of this writing, I think I fall somewhere between the two... My story is long and complicated enough that I would do a better service to try to pick out and present to you only the most beneficial stuff that might be of use to others.

I see a few common threads connecting many of the stories from survivors of Hurricane Katrina (and other major disasters around the world):

1. People will generally sing Kumbayah and get along pretty well...until their provisions run low. After that, then its a song of a different tune. Take a look back throughout history. In every culture in the world there have been accounts of extreme predation, in the names of 'need', 'want', and 'gotta have'. Sad thing is, it does not take extreme deprivation to bring it on.

2. Never, ever underestimate anyone, even if you think you know that person perfectly well. Hardship makes some folks go nuts. The degree of hardship usually directly affects levels of trust, decency and normalcy.

The same principle affects the evacuation process. Normally, road rage on most highways is uncommon, but desperate people stuck in evacuation traffic were subjected to road rage of the worst kind. In both Hurricane Rita and Katrina evacuations, there were more than a few reports of on-the-road armed robberies, assaults, hijacked gas, vehicles, etc. etc., ad nauseum.

There were also news reports of an increase in the number murders committed by family members. After Hurricane Katrina passed in Mississippi, a man shot his sister in the head in a dispute over a bag of ice. An almost identical report occurred in Louisiana. There were others...

The actions of family members, friends and neighbors under extreme duress may surprise you. Everyone's tipping point is built differently, but in extreme circumstances, ALWAYS expect the unexpected. Even normally gentle folks under pressure can reveal an unexpected side.

3. Desperate people with more 'brawn than brain' can be extremely dangerous, especially towards those who have more 'brain than brawn'. If you are in this situation, watch your back, and be prepared to think on your feet, 24/7. For this and many other reasons, it is not a good idea to be totally alone in a crisis situation, if you can help it.

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This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:

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