Thursday, July 25, 2019

People in the Aftermath

After a natural disaster hits, you can expect four types of people to show up almost immediately. The timing, numbers, and duration will vary with the size of the disaster and the local population, but they're almost inevitable.

First Responders and Government
Police and fire departments do a good job of getting to the site of a disaster and checking for casualties. They don't normally stick around for long, because most disasters will have them covering more area than they have the manpower to manage.

After Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005 , the government disarmed anyone who chose to remain in their homes during the clean-up. Most states have since passed laws forbidding such foolishness. FEMA stories are countless and rarely have a happy ending.

In our wonderful age of social media and live news coverage, everyone within 100 miles of a disaster will know within 100' of where the damage has occurred. I tend to lump local media outlets into this category as well, as they're not there to help or hinder but will instead clog the roads and generally get in the way in order to get the right picture for their FaceBook/Instagram/news story.

I've seen this after a tornado hit a rural area, when the ambulances couldn't get up the gravel road because of all of the cars full of gawkers wanting to see and be seen with the damage. News crews vary, and most will obey police orders if told to stay back, but the desire to be the first to report a story can make them a nuisance. Live, on-the-scene reporting also provides targeting information for the group below.

Scum that will steal anything they can get, they seem to pop up after every disaster. We've seen several reports of looters following the flooding this spring here in Iowa, which is a fairly low-crime state. After every hurricane, massive fire, or earthquake you'll find reports of looters going through damaged areas looking for things to steal. “Looters will be shot” signs are a legal gray area depending on your local politicians; in some areas the signs could be used as proof of premeditation if a looter were to be shot, changing it from self-defense to murder. Timing will vary, with the local idiots being the first to try for an easy score and the opportunistic ones traveling from miles away showing up hours and days later.

A subset of looters are the scam artists. We get them every time we have a major storm that does damage to roofs and siding, let alone a tornado. They'll come in from out of town, give an estimate for the work to repair something, get a deposit or down payment, and never be seen again.

Friends, family, neighbors, insurance adjusters, and local groups in the more rural areas will show up and do what they can to help recover from a disaster. Food, shelter, clothing, equipment, and manpower are usually offered to victims of a disaster rapidly. Urban areas have shown that they can band together and help each other out if the disaster is large enough. The response after 9/11 is a good example, as firefighters and other first responders were given food, water, a place to rest, etc. for weeks after the attack. Aid came from all over the country.

Knowing what to expect is the first step in planning for how to deal with a disaster. Don't forget to take the people around you into consideration.

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