Disasters: How we can help those in the Philippines and ourselves

A resident surveys damage wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines city of Tacloban. Friday's storm has displaced an estimated 600,000 people. AARON FAVILA / AP

The devastation in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan is enormous.  Over 10,000 are dead.  Survivors are without water, food, and shelter.  Disease outbreaks have begun.  International relief efforts are hampered by continuing storms and by devastating conditions.  UNICEF estimates that up to 4 million children may be affected by this disaster.  UNICEF along with governments and charities around the world have begun relief efforts to which you can donate.  We all need to step up and help.

As we pause to consider the enormous destruction and horrific loss of life overseas we are reminded that we need to prepare for such events closer to home.  It was just about a year ago that Superstorm Sandy hit our shores.  We remember the damage and loss of life following Hurricane Katrina a few years ago.   And this is not the first time we have watched from afar disasters overseas.  We recall the Haitian earthquake that took 85,000 lives and the 2004 tsunami deaths that took nearly 230,000 lives and displaced nearly 1.5 million. 

On November 1, President Obama signed an Executive Order “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change,” following the recommendation of the Intragency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. Federal, state, and local governments must be prepared for disasters and severe weather emergencies and they need plans that can be implemented quickly and knowledgably. 

And so do you.  When disasters strike you aren’t going to be able to turn on your computer and search out information about what to do.  You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: be prepared.  Get an emergency supply kit; make a family disaster plan and be informed.  That’s the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is currently operating with funding from a mini continuing resolution rather than the full budget it needs in order to protect our health. That’s scary.

Take some time to read the advice on their disaster page that offers information about groups with special needs, such as those with chronic conditions and disabilities, and pregnant women.  You cannot know when a disaster will strike, but you can make an effort to be prepared. 

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