Emergency Water 101: Lesson 3
"Assessing The Danger Level"
The final lesson in our basic training course teaches you how to assess the danger level of any emergency you find yourself in. We cover the key questions you will need to ask yourself so you know how to respond to your situation.
This is very important training. Let's get started. The transcript is below for your reference.
NEXT: Advanced Training - Storing Water for An Emergency
See my recommendations on how you should ensure the safety of your family's drinking water every day.
Hi it's Glenn again. Welcome to our third core training vide. Now I want to show you some real-life examples of water emergencies as well as some very real threats.
Imagine that you’ve just experienced a crisis. Emotions are high and people don't know what to do. Your world will be in chaos, but you need to be cut through the chaos and make sense of things. Some emergencies are more serious than others. You'll need to know how to quickly assess the danger level of whatever situation you find yourself in. There are some key things that you’ll need to look for to assess your situation. This knowledge will allow you to keep a level head and make good decisions. So let's get started.
I have two goals with this lesson. First, by going through some different real-life examples you'll see very clearly that some emergencies are more dangerous than others. My second goal is to give you a way to look at an emergency situation in order to determine the threat level to your family. If you're able to figure out how serious the problem is, how big of an area is affected, how long it will last, and what infrastructure has been damaged, you will be able to make better decisions and be better able to adapt to your situation.
You can assess your situation by asking yourself some key questions. One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is, “Do we have a reliable way to find out more information?” Do our phones work. Can we get on the internet? Can we listen to the radio? Can we communicate with people by phone or by walkie-talkie? The fact is that information is the key. If you're able to get first-hand information about the big picture of what's going on, you will be better able to make good decisions. Plus, if you're able to talk to people you can tell them where you are and if you have any medical emergencies. If, on the other hand, you aren’t able to get information about what's going on, and if you can't communicate with people, you will be isolated and in the dark. It will be much harder to make decisions, and it will be a much scarier situation.
The second question you need to ask yourself is, “Do we have power, and if not how large is the power outage and how long is the power outage expected to last?” Having no power at your house is one thing, but if the entire city, state, or region is without power for an extended period of time, your situation has suddenly become much more serious. Everything depends upon electricity, from emergency response, medical services, communications, and your municipal water supply. Power is crucial to everything, and if it’s out for an extended period of time, the situation is very serious. Keep in mind that water could still flow from your taps, but it could be dangerously contaminated, especially as the days tick by.
The third question to ask yourself is, “Can we get in our car and drive away?” If you're able to drive away and get to a place that hasn't been directly affected by the crisis, your danger level is much lower than if you are not able to get out. If you can't get out, then the trucks most likely can't get in, and response vehicles can’t in, which means that they can't go to grocery stores and replenish bottled water and food supplies. And it also means that ambulances can't get to you. So if you can't get out, your danger level is definitely much higher.
The fourth question is, “Is our infrastructure damaged?” What conditions are the roads in? Are the underground pipes ruptured? If infrastructure is damaged, the situation you’re in is certainly a bigger deal. This will affect the safety of water because even if water is flowing to your faucets it may be contaminated with sewage. Also, if sewage pipes are ruptured toilets may not flush and you may have trouble getting rid of sewage. When the infrastructure is damaged, the situation be longer-term, and you could have longer-term isolation.
The next question is, “Can we get medical support if we need it?” If medical support is not available or is greatly reduced, you must be very careful—much more careful than normal. And you must avoid getting sick at all costs, which means that you have to be very careful with your supply of drinking water.
And next, “Do you have access to multiple sources of safe drinking water?” Without access to multiple sources of safe drinking water, the water that you do have becomes that much more valuable. For example, if your tap water is down, can you go to the store and get bottled water, or can go to another location and get safe drinking water? If you don't have those options then you really have to be careful with your water supply. And of course, there may be other questions that you can and should ask yourself based on your specific situation. For example, if you live near a chemical refinery, you have to ask whether there is a chance that it could explode or if it could cause a large chemical spill.
So what I want to do now, is I want to look at four specific examples of disasters. The first example is a chemical spill that happened in West Virginia. In January of 2014 10,000 gallons of a dangerous chemical leaked into the Elk River. The Elk River is a source of tap water for communities downstream, so 300,000 people were told not to drink, consume, touch, bathe or even brush their teeth with this water. This was a big media event. It was the main thing on the news for over a week, and people in the area were fairly upset about this. This is an example of a water emergency, but let’s step back for minute and figure out how dangerous was this event. So do do this, let's go through the questions one by one.
So first of all, did they have a reliable way to find out more information? Yes. There was no disruption at all to their TV service, internet, or phones. They could get information and they could talk to anyone they wanted to talk today. Did they have power? Yes. There was no disruption to their electricity. Could they drive away? Yes. They could hop in their cars and drive away. Was their infrastructure damaged? No. Could they get medical support if needed. Yes, they could. Did they have access to multiple sources of safe drinking water? Yes. Tap water was limited but they did have bottled water. They could drive away and get water from an area that was not impacted by the spill. So when you look at it this way, you see that this was an example of a low-grade water emergency. Yes, it is potentially dangerous, there is a potentially long-term health risk from drinking the contaminated water, and they had to temporarily change their drinking water habits. Yes, it affected the local economy for a while, but the individuals had plenty of options and that is that she had plenty of options. And that is the key; they had plenty of options.
So the second example is Hurricane Katrina. This was a huge disaster—90,000 square miles of damage, which is the size of the United Kingdom. That’s a huge area. Over 300,000 homes were destroyed, over 1,200 deaths, and $100 billion in damage. So let's go through these questions. Could they get information and communicate? Well, the TVs didn’t work, the Internet didn’t work, most of the radio stations were down, but if someone had a battery-powered radio, there were a couple of AM radio stations that kept broadcasting, so people could get some information as long as their batteries didn't run out of juice. People could not communicate because land lines and cell phones were down, so to a large degree, they were cut off from communications and from information from the outside world. Next question: Did they have power. No. Next question: Could they drive away? Not after the hurricane hit, and this is a key point. They were able to drive away before the hurricane hit. And this is when the good things about a hurricane, is that you can see it coming and you can evacuate if you need to. And most people actually did evacuate before Katrina hit, and that was a very good thing. That saved many, many, many lives. But after the hurricane hit, no, they could not drive away. Was the infrastructure damaged or destroyed? Absolutely. Terrible devastation to the infrastructure. Could they get medical support? No. Medical services were very, very limited in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Did they have access to multiple sources of safe drinking water? No. Actually the water was highly contaminated and very dangerous. So Hurricane Katrina was a high-grade water emergency. It was a very dangerous situation. People had very limited options, and there were immediate long-term health risks.
Now let's look at another example. I want to look at the possibility of a large earthquake hitting either Los Angeles or San Francisco. By large I’m talking about 8 plus on the Richter scale. Now remember that the earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 was 9.0 earthquake. Both Japan and California are on the Ring of Fire. Large earthquakes have hit California many times in the past, and it will happen again. So what could happen when one strikes? One of the main differences between an earthquake and a hurricane, obviously, is that you don't see it coming, so you're not able to evacuate. And this is one of the saving graces for Hurricane Katrina was that millions of people were evacuated before it hit, which greatly reduced the number of deaths. In an earthquake, everyone in going to get hit, and after the initial disaster, millions of people will not have safe drinking water.
So again let's go through the questions. Can they get information and communicate? Very unlikely. TVs won't work. The Internet won’t work. Cell phones and landmines won’t work. Will they have power? No. Can they drive away. No. The roads will be destroyed because. They could not drive away. Will the infrastructure be damaged or destroyed? Yes. There will be massive destruction to both above and below ground infrastructure. Can they get medical support. No. Will they have access to multiple sources of safe drinking water? No.
This would be a very high-grade emergency. It will be a very dangerous situation. People's options will be severely limited. There will be immediate and long-term health risks, and it will be massive in scope.
Now the last example is a long-term massive power outage like what Ted Koppel talks about in his book, Lights Out. I talked about this in our first video. We live in a society that is absolutely dependent upon electricity. If you were to go back in time 100 years, people were much more self-reliant. They could and did live off the land. So when a massive solar flare struck the earth in 1859, it fried telegraph lines, but that's about it. It didn't really affect people's lives. If the same solar flare were to strike us today, it would likely cause a massive power outage that could impact much of the USA and last months or even years. This is something that most people would not be able to adapt to, and it could cause a massive number of deaths. Unfortunately, Ted Koppel’s research shows us that rogue countries or terrorist organizations could trigger the same type of large-scale, long-term power outage right now with cyber terrorism, and our government is simply not prepared to deal with such a situation.
So let's go to the questions. After a massive power outage, could you get information and communicate? Not the first few days. As soon as batteries lose power, cell phones, radios, and all forms of communications will fail. Will you have power. No. Complete blackness over a large area for a long period of time. This means that nothing will work. You would be a use gas pumps. You wouldn’t be able to turn on lights, heat your home, anything like that. Could you drive away? Probably not. The entire US contains three electric grid regions, so even if only one region goes down, you’re talking about a massive area. Will the infrastructure be damaged or destroyed? Well, it wouldn’t necessarily be destroyed. Our infrastructure would be completely disabled, so it’s the same thing. Could you get medical support? No. Again, this is another area that is completely dependent upon electricity. Would you have access to multiple sources of save drinking water? Probably not. Obviously, it depends on where you live.
One thing that makes this scenario so serious is the size and scope of the emergency response that is needed. In any emergency that covers a small region, even an earthquake or hurricane, the rest of the country can come to the aid of the affected area. But when you have a large-scale black out that covers a huge area of US, emergency response will be extremely difficult, which means that it could be a long time before you get help. In other words, this scenario would be an extreme emergency and would be very dangerous. In fact, this is as close to the worst-case situation you can imagine, and unfortunately it could happen.
So you now see that there are differing degrees of danger in different emergencies, but I also hope you notice an important point. One of the main determinants of how dangerous an emergency is, is how many options do you have? The more limited your options, the more dangerous the situation. So if we look at the West Virginia chemical spill, it was not high-level emergency because people had plenty of options. They could call people. They could watch the news and find out what's going. They could hop in their cars and drive somewhere that wasn't affected, and if they needed medical help, they could get it. In a hurricane, earthquake, or massive power outage, options are much more limited, and that makes these situations much more dangerous.
So asking yourself these questions will help you gather the necessary information you need to make good decisions. Because every location is different, every situation is different, and that means we can't just give you a simple checklist of things to do. You have to able to adapt and make your own decisions. It’s easier to make good decisions when you have information and that's the purpose of asking yourself these questions.
Congratulations! You've now completed our basic training course. You now understand the scope of problem, and you have the basic knowledge you need to provide your family with safe drinking water in an emergency. I hope you enjoyed our free course. I want to thank you for being wise enough to recognize the importance of this information. Now it’s vital that take the next step and actually get prepared. Yes, knowledge is important but it’s not enough. You also need to take some simple, practical steps to get prepared.
Every time a hurricane or earthquake strikes, people called me and ask me what they can do to help people who are affected. Unfortunately, the fact is that after an event has happened, people's options have been greatly reduced. At that point, if they haven’t properly prepared, they’re probably completely dependent on whatever emergency response is available. The whole point is to be prepared before an event happens. it doesn't take long, nor does it take a lot of money to get prepared. It’s just important that you do it.
Questions? Leave them in the comments.