Resolve to be ready

Published 5:30 pm Friday, January 1, 2010

It seemed like such a minor storm — until it hung around for a couple of days, joining forces with another approaching front and morphing into a force of destruction. By the time Suffolk saw the sun again, the river house on Bennett’s Creek was gone and businesses and restaurants both downtown and in North Suffolk were closed due to flooding.

Suffolk was spared the ravages of a hurricane this year, but the lesson of the fall nor’easters is that localized disasters can strike at any time of year and in ways that we might never expect to experience. Hurricanes might be the most obvious threats that we face from year to year, but they are far from the only events with the potential to turn the lives of Suffolk residents upside down.

The nor’easters were only two of the most recent examples of this lesson being brought painfully to bear here at home. Remember the tornados? Nobody ever expected that Suffolk’s worst natural disaster would be an event that took place over the course of less than half an hour. Yet in less time than it takes to watch a television sitcom, a few Suffolk neighborhoods were changed forever. The blessing, it has been noted and is worth remembering, was that no lives were lost.


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But even small events can be disastrous for specific families. The list of Suffolk families whose lives were scarred by fire last year was depressingly long. In each case, lives moved along in their uniform way right until the flames and smoke engulfed everything around them.

In each case — whether the personal disaster of a fire or the community-wide nightmare of a tornado, a flood or a hurricane — a big part of the nightmare that encompasses the victims comes from feelings of helplessness and confusion. And those parts of the nightmare can be minimized with prior planning.

That’s why Virginia and Suffolk emergency services officials are asking citizens to resolve this year to develop a family disaster plan. Make sure you have a couple of designated meeting places, a family member or friend outside the area you can use as a point of contact, an evacuation plan for your home and one that will get you out of the area, and plan how you will communicate with one another if you get separated. It’s also a good idea to pack a waterproof container with copies of insurance documents, emergency contact information and other important forms.

They are all simple steps, but taking them now — before a disaster strikes — can mean the difference between having some control over your situation during a disaster or helplessness. For the benefit of your family, choose to take that control.