What many would call a “dusting,” we Atlantans would call a “snowpocalypse” as evidence by this week’s 2 inches of snow which crippled the city, causing severe gridlock across the metro area, stranding school children and commuters who were forced to abandon cars on the highway. The mayor of Atlanta and Governor Deal have been making the media circuit, trying to explain what happened to cause the city to grind to a halt, but regardless of who’s fault it was, it’s time to take a look at the situation and see what we can learn from a preparedness perspective. Here are our top 5 lessons learned, that don’t just apply to folks in the Deep South, but to everyone who might be caught in an emergency situation.
- You can always count on…yourself. We’d like to be able to tell you that someone from your local, state, or federal government will always be available 24/7 to help everyone during an emergency, but that’s just not realistic. First responders are there to help the people in the most need, it’s important that everyone else be self-sufficient until emergency response crews have time to get the situation under control. That means you need to be prepared for the worst, with supplies, plans, and knowledge to make sure you can care for yourself and your family until the situation returns to normal.
- Keep emergency supplies in your car. So much of our lives revolve around our vehicles. For most of us that’s how we get to and from work everyday, shuttle our kids, and buy groceries. And in places like Atlanta many of us have long commutes, during which time anything could happen. You have emergency supplies in your house, why not in your car? Many motorists were stranded on the highways for 10 hours or more. You need to make sure you have a blanket, water, food, and other emergency supplies stored away in your trunk just in case.
- Make a family emergency plan. If you can’t pick up your kids who will? Many parents were stranded on the interstate and unable to get to their children’s schools. Sit down with your family and go over what you would do in different emergency situations. Is there a neighbor or relative in the area that can help out if you aren’t able to get to your kids. Let them know you’d like to include them in your plan. Make sure you also come up with a communication plan, that includes giving everyone a list of important phone numbers, not just to save in your cellphone but to keep in your wallet or kids’ backpack. Many commuters’ cell phones died while they were sitting on the roadways for hours. If all your important phone numbers are saved to your device and it died, would you be able to remember your neighbor’s number to ask them to check in on the kids when a Good Samaritan loans you their phone?
- Keep your gas tanks full. This is important to remember in other emergencies like hurricanes, when people are trying to evacuate. If there’s a chance you’re going to need your car, or your ability to get gas is going to be restricted (due to road closures or shortages), make sure you fill up your tank as soon as you hear the first warning. Many of the motorists trying to get home this week ran out of gas, worsening the clogged roads and delaying first responders from getting to people who really needed their help.
- Listen to warnings. The City of Atlanta and the surrounding metro area was under a winter storm warning within 12 hours of the first flakes, but residents and area leaders were slow to listen, most people didn’t start taking action until the snow began to fall, which lead to a mass exodus of the city. While no one likes to “cry wolf” in situations like these, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Learn the difference between a watch and a warning, and start taking action as soon as you hear the inclement forecast.