Sometimes when in inclement weather strikes we think we are prepared. However, we find that perhaps we aren’t as prepared. When the remnants of Hurricane Matthew hit our area, the rain and winds didn’t seem dangerous at first. In fact, our city suffered little damage. But when the power suddenly left us in the dark due to fast rising flood waters and cyclone based whipping winds then we became to realize that we weren’t as prepared as we would have liked. Suddenly we were without power. My first call was to the power company to register a complete power outage request. Many in our neighborhood didn’t know the telephone number to the local power company. As a good planner, I had the power company phone number programmed in my mobile phone. Like a good neighbor, I would attempt to register a power outage for my neighbors. This was not an easy task because the power company wanted the social security number, telephone number or account number of the home with the outage. This created a bit of frustration especially when it was just as difficult to get a live person on the phone to assist. My lesson learned from this particular experience was to stay focused on only my issues.
Next was the news reporting. Our local news was broadcast on a regional radio station. Perhaps the newsroom forgot that nearly half of its audience was listening rather than watching because of power outages. As I listened, I would regularly hear the newscaster phrase “As you see here” filled my a colorful description. It made me wonder how the visually impaired view our news reporting? The most distressing part was the media was so consumed with reporting the most devastating areas that if failed to become a community service to those in need. Many were without power, water, and communications. Those same were prepared with limited food, supplies, funds, and a Red Cross radio. News sources kept saying shelters were open but would say, “you can see the numbers at the bottom of our screen.” No, we can’t see the numbers because over a million residents are without power! Clearly, news sources must learn how to get back to basics for its listening audience. Particularly during a state of emergency.
Additionally, that one news broadcast can be the difference between life and death to some. Many mobile devices have incredible battery power. But that is not to say that resource is readily available. When power begins to diminish and requires a recharge, then this is where many start to panic, especially when listening to news broadcasts. No power means no internet and perhaps no land line if lines are affected. Crucial news and up to date resources were filled with dramatic rescues. When dam levies in Lumberton were beginning to peak and cause a fracture, the story failed to deliver appropriate resources and instructions leaving many trapped when the dam broke. I am mindful that citizens should arm themselves with resources. However, the media has a level of responsibility in providing emergency resources to assist authorities. If news agencies create a business plan for weather phone apps, then they owe its community a resource of open shelters with policies such as pets, restrictions, contact information and potential hazards affecting that area.
A valuable lesson learned from this experience is that some of us follow the Red Cross suggested planning for emergencies. However, it is not a perfect plan of execution. A tough lesson learned is that technologies such as phone apps and portable devices have far outpaced the practical user guide of the average citizen. All agencies should grasp an understanding that all citizens are not entirely connected to Facebook, or the app indulged world. Many seniors during this storm expressed a strong feeling of disconnection because they are not up to date with technologies. They also have concerns that they must invest in high-level device plans to stay abreast with police, fire, media, and emergency authorities. Basically, there should be a firm plan in place making a bit easier for all. If we choose to use our electronic devices then, it should be a complimentary part of the service rather than the requirement.