Disaster Planning 101



You would be surprised at what things you are actually responsible for. There are the obvious ones like choosing to make an important life decision based on a message from a fortune cookie but there are more complicated things as well. As explained in the lecture on Tuesday, April 22 entitled “In A Moment of Crisis: The Ethics of Disaster Decision Making”, we are responsible for everything we know.

That’s right, you are responsible for every piece of information stored up in your brain and even more so, for how you use this knowledge.

Although we may never see a category 5 hurricane at our school, it is important to be prepared and know who to look to for information. I personally would go to Mitch Stripling from the Health Department; he seemed like he knew what he was talking about.

In most scenarios, but especially in a disaster, knowledge is power. The quality of aid and assistance given in times of disaster is very much dependent on the quality of information you have. Mitch Stripling, employee of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and a co-lead for Healthcare Evacuation during Hurricane Sandy, proved that many myths about disasters are false.

For example, the majority of people don’t panic when a disaster is about to strike. The elite, the people with power might panic, but that is only because they are in fear of the other people below them panicking. Ironically, a disaster brings out the calm nature in people.

Another false myth surrounds the incredibly advanced search and rescue teams seen on television during a disaster. In 2010, there was the infamous Haiti earthquake that took millions of lives. Stripling said that the professional American search and rescue teams saved about 200 people out of 10,000 that were saved from the piles of rubble in Haiti. The other 9,800 lives were saved by average citizens. The same goes for the 911 crash. The few people who were saved owe their lives to ordinary people and not to the professionals.

Normal citizens like you and me are the silent heroes in disasters.

It might seem logical, but when planning for disasters, it is essential to know exactly what a disaster is and what characteristics define one. By knowing what a disaster looks like and what actually happens when one strikes, more people are saved.

Dr. Pascoe, a professor of the Philosophy Department who was moderating the lecture, went even further to say that to effectively inform ourselves, we must constantly update and change our knowledge. If we do not refresh our facts and see each disaster as a new project, we are stuck in what she called an epistemology of ignorance. People who act through an epistemology of ignorance would intentionally misinterpret the events within the disaster because the events don’t fit their limited perspective.

Think back to Katrina and all of the stories we heard as we watched the disaster unfold on television. Many believe stories about men raping babies in the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina because that image fit within their view of the hurricane. They believed it because is sounded true not because it was. People viewed Katrina through colored glasses and took pieces of information to be true that fit their filter.

To effectively prepare and plan for a disaster at Manhattan, students must know the facts. It is important to know what myths are true and which are made up because when a disaster hits, these myths will become reality. Secondly, students must avoid seeing the unfolding events of a disaster through an epistemology of ignorance.

Remember that all choices matter and will effect future ones made by others. We must never forget our morals and in theory, these morals should guide our actions and make them just.