In April of this year, Once-in-a-millennium storm My father and sister were among the thousands of people in drenched South Florida who were suddenly affected. severe flash flood. Although they survived physically unharmed, many of their belongings were reduced to a pile of water-soaked rubble. Among those ruined memorabilia was a set of baby clothes. Her sister had worked hard to save her for the future, but she was forgotten in the flood waters. More than six months later, she still grieves for them. “Things are things,” she told me. But those clothes have been in the family for decades. She was wearing it, and so was her 2-year-old. She just told me that she wished she had kept her clothes so her daughter could have given them to her children.
”rain bomb” My family was evicted from a damaged rental home. Mild climate.Climate change is likely to cause storms Moist and more often,and coastal hotspots Beyond South Florida Rapidly rising sea levels I’m driving high tide, a sudden storm can easily become a disaster. These extreme dangers are a byproduct of the planet’s unprecedented rate of warming. change where and when Forest fire, floods and other catastrophes and how they overlap. These events affect millions of Americans. 1 in 70 adults According to the latest information, people have been evacuated due to hurricanes, floods, or other disasters in the past year. US Census Household Dynamics Survey Data.
People living in hurricane and earthquake zones have long been taught to prepare for the worst, but with these new threats, Preparing for “all dangers” It is much more important to everyone, everywhere. U.S. emergency management guidelines already include recommendations for households to maintain a stockpile of more compact supply kits that can be mobilized in the event of an evacuation. Both should include emergency medication, a copy of your ID, food, water, and other necessities. “What you put in these ‘to-go bags’ is what you really need,” Sue Ann Bell, a researcher and nurse practitioner specializing in disaster response at the University of Michigan, told me. .
However, when talking with experts about disaster prevention, I was surprised to learn that it is recommended to store personal belongings at disaster prevention centers. bag Basically it doesn’t exist. It makes sense that the essentials come first. These items can mean the difference between life and death in a moment of crisis. But since my immediate family was evacuated, I started thinking about a third way to prepare for the uncertainty of extreme weather events and subsequent disasters: what I like to call “climate preparedness.” .
This bag now sits zipped up on a shelf in my bedroom closet, ready for quick access when needed. Inside, I hid some of my most prized personal belongings. Photos of loved ones dressed in clothing inherited from deceased relatives. A dirty ring, something that is irreplaceable only to me. A stack of diaries filled with ramblings from my childhood. All are relatively small physical memories that I consider to be my most essential possessions. All of which I hope to be able to share with my family someday.
largely advice Preparing for extreme weather-related disasters is very practical, and for good reason. “First and foremost, we need to protect our lives,” Fernando Rivera, a professor at the University of Central Florida who studies disaster sociology, told me. Preparing for the realities of recovery, which means having physical copies of identification, medical documents, employment documents, and financial documents to help with disaster relief and insurance claims, comes second. But survivors of climate disasters can also benefit by preserving other meaningful parts of their lives.
Ms Bell said the loss of a home or certain property can affect a survivor’s well-being throughout the recovery process. On a small scale and qualitatively, study Regarding supporting elderly patients during disasters, home caregivers she interviewed spoke of the stress and personal devastation their patients experienced from loss after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. “There’s a certain trauma in knowing that everything you’ve worked for in your life is no longer there,” she says. That could impact “their larger health trajectory as they get older and feel like they’re trying to recover from a disaster and starting all over again.”
It’s different for everyone, but changes in life after a disaster can certainly cause sadness, which can manifest as health complications, says Georgetown, a psychologist who studies the effects of trauma. university professor Priscilla Das-Brailsford told me. And when these dangers put someone into a state of chronic stress, it can lead to: serious physical health problemssuch as cardiovascular dysfunction and cancer. “Extreme trauma and loss from disasters is understandable,” Das Brailsford said. Immediately after a victimization, people typically focus on physical safety and avoiding remaining threats.interwoven Impact on mental and physical health Usually comes later. “Once that’s over and things calm down a little bit, what happens is… after that As seen in her own patients, problems such as headaches and stomach problems can suddenly get very bad.
Das Brailsford said the loss of personal property and, for those permanently displaced by the disaster, a place to live could mean further psychological deterioration for survivors. She was a first responder to Hurricane Katrina. “I remember walking through the rubble and seeing things that were lost during the storm and wanting to pick them up and save them,” she said. She recalled thinking, “This is someone’s precious item, and it was about to be sent to the dump.”
Some people may balk at the idea of clearing out the belongings they want to see every day. Such precautions may seem unnecessary, but it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll act fast enough to protect what’s important if a crisis occurs. But even so, feel We prepare for unexpected disasters, but that perception is often far removed from reality, said Bell, a disaster response researcher at the University of Michigan.a 2021 survey She says even basic steps to prepare for any danger, like stocking up on emergency kits and talking with family and friends about evacuation plans, can make people believe they’re more prepared than they actually are. discovered.
Sarah McTurnahan, a senior research fellow at the Urban Research Institute who studies resilience planning and disaster recovery, says that when measuring post-disaster well-being and recovery success, focus on quantifiable indicators. Told. Disasters can leave people in debt or hospitalized. But hazard preparedness should not only consider these specific aspects of recovery, she said. “As humans, we often get stuck in those financial resources,” McTurnahan said. When I asked her how we can better prepare for other types of loss that people may experience, she emphasized the importance of mental health, the recovery process from climate disasters. emphasized the importance of tend not to pay much attention. Reminding people that emotional belongings are also important, whether it’s photos, figurines, or clothing, can be a small step in helping people recover emotionally after a disaster.
Of course, what makes the most sense to preserve will vary from person to person. And perhaps that’s one reason why guidance for selecting and storing personal property in advance of a disaster is difficult to find, McTurnahan said. Giving some thought to this question is a good first step. “I definitely encourage reflecting on the more personal and sentimental parts of it that also lead to personal loss,” she said.
Because searching for these items is not something everyone should do in the hectic moments before evacuation or when starting an evacuation. No one should prioritize personal mementos over their own physical safety. Think of your climate carry bag as an optional complement to your disaster kit or on-the-go bag. The latter two reflect things we cannot live without. The first is what we don’t want.
Still, it’s not a bad idea to build climate-friendly gear, says Rivera, a sociologist at UCF. He also thought about the potential for communal storage to store things that are important to people, easily accessible year-round, and further promote disaster resilience across the region. “Personally, I would never have thought that I would be in that situation,” he says. However, climate change is no less a threat and is becoming an increasingly reality in our daily lives. Some of us may find ourselves in just such a position, having to quickly decide what is irreplaceable.
My father never imagined he would be evacuated by a flood until he saw the water levels rising around him. “When you have more water, you have to quickly think rationally about what’s important and take the water from there,” he told me. If he could go back in time and pack a bag full of memories, he would fill it with things that are now lost. That includes a collection of books he’s kept for decades, and photo albums of his parents, siblings, and himself. His sister, he lost everyone. But, of course, not everything will fit. He also thought about the well-worn rugs from multiple countries and moves, and the boxes of school assignments and memorabilia that my brother and I had handmade.
“We saved a significant amount of money,” he said. “But what about the rest? It’s gone. And we have no choice but to move on.”