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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pre-Identifying The Victims

I did a post yesterday over at the California Preppers Network ("Hard Financial Choices For California").  I was discussing the sorry financial state that California finds itself.  Our legislators have spent us into a corner, and some very tough decisions are going to have to be made to get us back under control.

I ended the post by stating that we're all going to have some favorite department that MUST go away.  If it doesn't have to do with the core responsibilities of the state, it must be cut.

In my opinion, state Emergency Preparedness planning is one of those core functions.  I wanted to find out some information on my own county, and I found a page on the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that had to do with preparedness.  In particular, a section called SNAPS
SNAPS provides local-level community profile information nationwide. It can be browsed by county and state and searched by zip code. SNAPS serves as a valuable tool when responding to public health emergency events at the state, Tribal, and local levels. It provides a "snap shot" of key variables for consideration in guiding and tailoring health education and communication efforts to ensure diverse audiences receive critical public health messages that are accessible, understandable, and timely.
What initially looked like some boring data actually had some nuggets of information to help me as an individual judge the potential impact a large scale emergency would have on public emergency resources.

My county - Contra Costa - has about 950,000 people.  From the CDC data, I find that about 28% of our residents have some sort of disability:

What I found most interesting is that only about 55,000 are able to go "outside of home".  That means that over 200,000 of these folks are non-ambulatory.  That is a very large number of people that are dependent upon a family member or the county to move them in the event of a mandatory evacuation.

Like one that might be called if the levees that protect us just happened to break.  Hmmm.  Anything like that ever happened before?

Also, only 20,000 of these people are able to care for themselves.  92.5% of them need assistance - 240,000+ people.  That's lots of people.

Another section that caught my attention had to do with how people heat their homes.

What this is saying is that there are about 345,000 households in our county.  Of those homes, 335,000 - 97% - are dependent upon public utilities for their heating.  There are no statistics, but inferring from these numbers, I'd guess that about the same number of folks are fully dependent upon utilities for cooking and water heating.

It's not a surprising number given we're primarily a suburban residential area.  But how many of these households even have the basic ability to heat water and cook food for longer than the propane tank for their bar-b-que lasts?  Most people that live in an apartment or public housing will be in a very bad way.

In checking this source, I see that roughly 68% of our housing units are single-family homes or mobile homes.  So 32% are in multi-family housing.  Even if we only take the people that live in large complexes - 10 or more units - that is over 12% of the housing.  That represents roughly 120,000 people who likely don't have any sort of cooking or water heating ability in the event of a prolonged loss of utility power.

So what does this information tell me, as an individual, and can I use this to help in my own preparedness planning?

It tells me that county emergency resources are going to be VERY stressed.  240,000+ disabled people will need help from someone else.  That's fully one-quarter of the total population of our county!  If an emergency occurs at midnight, the impact would likely be minimized, as I'm sure a good number of the dependent folks live in a residence with other family members.

But what if it happens on a Wednesday at 2 in the afternoon?  The 1994 Southern California 6.7 Northridge quake hit at 4:30am.  Our last big earthquake in Northern California - the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake - hit on a Friday afternoon right at the start of the rush hour. 

Many of these caregivers/family members are going to be off at work.  If we have a major earthquake or levee break that takes out bridges, these caregivers/family members may not be able to return home.  What then?

The information also tells me that at least 120,000 people won't be able to cook food or heat water if they lose utility power.  Some of those will also fall into the disabled persons category, but at the very minimum, we will have hundreds of thousands of people that have no way of caring for themselves in the event of a major disaster.

We're going to have LOTS of refugees - people that have no ability to care for themselves at any level.  People that are fully dependent on county, state or federal assistance.  It will not be pretty.

Assistance resources will have to be rationed.  That's not a situation I ever plan on finding myself.

Accept The Challenge

If you read this blog and others like it, you're most likely somewhere in the process of doing your own preps.  You may just be starting, or you may be fully prepped.

All of us, though, have friends and family that just don't want to recognize the risk or prepare.  It's too much of a bother.  They figure someone else will take care of them - FEMA To The Rescue! - if TSHTF.

Bring them a dose of reality.  Show them the numbers from the area where they live.  Demonstrate that they will just be one more mouth to feed in the eyes of the government rescue workers.

Have them place themselves in the photo at the top of this post, and ask them what kind of a bother THAT would be on their lives.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

I think you are reading the stats wrong. I believe the 55,000 are UNABLE to leave home which means that the other 208,000 ARE ambulatory.

Chief Instructor said...

Why would you think that? The first three items are types of disabilities, and the last 3 are things they are able to do for themselves. If you have something to support your belief, please send me a link.

GunRights4US said...

Regardless of HOW you look at the's still a CRAPLOAD of folks!

Great Post Chief!

Chief Instructor said...

Guns, that was really the point I was trying to get across. My son works for one of a handful of companies that offer ambulance service in our county. In total - all companies in the county - I'd guess there are 50 to 75 ambulances in our county of nearly 1 million people. If something major were to happen to the entire SF Bay Area, we'd be hosed.