13 May 2012

Now’s the time to check and make sure…..

“Now’s a good time to check and make sure you have…”

Those are the words used by many dive-masters aboard countless dive boats prior to leaving the docks for a day of SCUBA diving. The gist is to get divers to check their dive bags and equipment before the dock lines are cast to insure they’re prepared for a day of diving once they’re out at sea.

“…a mask, a snorkel, two fins—otherwise you’ll swim in circles...”

All joking aside, the call-out of an item list is done to prompt divers into running their checklists and to physically inspect their gear—and that of their dive buddy, too.

Following checklists and being responsible for another is not limited to hobbyists like SCUBA divers.

During hurricane season we need to establish a plan, and have some semblance of an idea as to what we’ll do if the wind blows and the waters rise. We owe it to ourselves, our families and for those who are so inspired--to our neighbors—after all, one tenant of the good book is to “be thy brother’s keeper”.

When I co-authored, “What to Do til The Cavalry Comes” with Thomas Van Hare in 2006, our intent was to reduce the chance of revisiting the heartbreaking scenes of New Orleans post hurricane Katrina.

The visions of Americans lined up in the streets, as well as those seen floating in the toxic mix of the storm’s flood waters still haunt us to this day.

Three years after we published “What to Do…” another preparedness guide rose from the wreckage of southern Louisiana. Its title is “Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters”, authored by Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré (U.S. Army, ret).

The Lt. General’s guide is written in what I consider to be “pure Honoré” style. For the uninitiated, his wording may be harsh truth; but as he relates to preparedness the Lt. General’s beliefs are congruent to ours, and follow this basic understanding:

“The U.S. had a Culture of Preparedness during the 1960s, when every home, government agency and institution did something to prepare in the event of a nuclear attack from the former Soviet bloc. Once that threat was all but gone, we abandoned our readiness.”-- Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré (U.S. Army, ret)

What he means

In the 1960s when the threat was a nuclear attack; schools were civil defense shelters, students were drilled on “duck and cover” and the skills of survival were engrained in us.

Back then, home builders offered underground bomb bunkers as an option in my South Florida neighborhood—an area that had its own Nike missile base established to defend against the Soviet missiles pointed towards the U.S. during the Kennedy era.

Families stocked canned goods, Sterno, candles, bleach and other supplies at the ready in their homes. We relied on each other in a time when there was more of a sense of community--and of “being American”—after all, we were being led by the generation that was born of the “greatest generation”.

FEMA was not considered part of a personal preparedness plan and in fact did not exist as it does in its current role today.

The thought process was if you were ready for “the Big One”, you were ready for just about anything and being basically prepared meant you had half the battle won.

The same holds true today

“One of the harshest lessons learned from recent disasters, especially Katrina, is that you are your own first responder.”-- Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré (U.S. Army, ret)

I’m not one to wait in line on a good day. I’ve been known to leave restaurants when there’s a wait for a table, and I plan my grocery shopping for mid-week to avoid the weekend rush.

The joke I make amongst my friends in my “preparedness circle” is that I have everything I need, except for fresh limes and mint—two ingredients needed for mojitos and rum-n-cokes.

I’m not advocating that a hurricane is a time to party, but once my home is secured and the choice of “stay or evacuate” has been made; I sit back and relax—while the lines at the grocery store and Home Depot grow!

To me, the only lines that are worse than those before a disaster are the FEMA lines for the “free” food, water and ice afterwards.

The realities of today make it necessary for those who are capable--even on the smallest scale—to do what they can to prepare their family for a disaster—be it natural or man-made, hurricane or terrorism.

Remember, you’re not only preparing for the event, you’re preparing for the days and weeks afterwards.

Hurricane season began June 1st—the dock lines have been cast-- “Now’s a good time to check and make sure you have...” before you find yourself “…swimming in circles.”

Since publishing “What to Do…”in 2006; Matt has spoken on disaster preparedness at the local, state and federal levels as well as been an invited speaker before members of Congress.

“What to Do” is endorsed by the current Governor of Mississippi Phil Bryant.

To contact Matt visit his website, www.mattlawrencebooks.com. His books are available in print, via electronic download and on Amazon Kindle.

09 July 2010

ROME is burning…

As MSNBC, CNN, and much of the mainstream media are short reporting our nation’s downhill slide into an “economic depression”—Lebron is coming to South Beach and Lindsey Lohan is going to jail.

Why do I write of such trivia?

Because it seems that news of a Hollywood train wreck, and a basketball player’s choice of a new master are more important to most—but not all Americans.

We’re 80-plus days into the worst ecological disaster faced by our nation since the revolution that created her and the number one interview on FOX News for July 8th was with Lindsey Lohan’s ex-con father—not once...but twice.

Granted, FOX allotted standard time segments to the other top stories of the day—the Russian spy trade, The “Kill the Crackers”/New Black Panthers/DOJ Race Case, the sunken tourist boat in Pennsylvania and yes, BP’s pesky oil gusher—but there seemed to be no “hard break” cutoff for Lohan’s father who ranted about the enablers in his daughter’s life, his ex-wife and the paparazzi who meddle in his private life.

After hearing Michael Lohan drop an “F-bomb” live on Studio B during Shepard Smith’s interview; I was shocked to see the powers-that-be at Fox give him a second chance at Faux News fame--in primetime no less, with Sean Hannity!

Seven-thousand satellite-fed channels available on a Wednesday night and there was not a damned thing on T.V.!

Mind you—while it appears that I’m picking on FOX News, none, N-O-N-E of the other “Snooze Stations” had bothered to cover the “top stories” I mentioned--and the reason is Americans—most, not all—are more interested in gossip and sports, or the hottest new techie-toy, than they are about our nation’s current or future situation.

Case in point:

Thousands lined up in the days leading up to Thursday June 24, 2010 to insure their ability to purchase and sign up for Apple’s new 4G I-phone. Many slept in parking lots and in line for the opportunity.

Apple called the demand for the phone "off the charts" and was working to get phones into customers' hands as quickly as possible.

I’m sure—just think of the new two-year service contracts for all those “gotta-have-it” customers--and of the initial sales profits before the price on the thing is slashed in half just six-months from now.

Sean Hill, 39, a D.C. police officer who pre-ordered an iPhone, smiled proudly and held his up victoriously as he left the newly opened Apple store in the Georgetown neighborhood.

"I'm like a kid in a candy store," he said. "I'm probably going to spend all morning playing with it."

Have you seen the crime rate in D.C.? It seems like the police there are always playing with something.

In Aventura, Fla., Loren and Veronica McHenry held out hope after they ended up at the back of the line. They arrived at 9 p.m. Wednesday and were told no one was allowed on mall property overnight. When they returned the next morning, they learned that 120 people had camped out at a nearby parking lot.

"There's no coordination between the mall employees, security and law enforcement," said Mr. McHenry, 42, shaking his head in disbelief. "It's a mess."

Yep, it’s an effin shame. We can’t coordinate a cell phone sale at a shopping mall—so why should we expect BP and our national leadership to coordinate the response to a major disaster or fix the economy?

One thing’s for certain—Americans will stand in line for anything.

Whether it’s to be first in line on Black Friday for those holiday bargains, a years worth of free fast food or for a case of water and a bag of ice after a hurricane, Americans have proven—as if been trained--to stand in line for things they want—and that’s a good thing.

With the economy continuing to show little signs of life, the lines for free stuff are about to get much longer—only these lines are going to be at welfare processing centers and depleted food banks.

Quite simply, while the collective “we”—Americans—have allowed ourselves to be distracted by the World Cup, Li-lo, and Lebron--the government has failed—among other things--to extend unemployment benefits before they went on vacation—thus leaving those families who have been so dependent on the subsidy in a lurch.

But hey, not to worry—Lebron’s coming to South Beach and that’s gonna make a real difference in a whole lotta people’s lives! I can tell. I saw the fans joyously jumping about as they screamed in excitement—about a person they will never meet and whose successes will never impact them personally.

I know, it’s not all their fault—the T.V. was the babysitter for the latch-key generation of kids during the 70’s and 80’s—and the television, before the internet and social networking robbed us--lulled many Americans into a false sense of what’s important.

Those children—who we plopped in front of the boob-tube in their urine soaked diapers as soon as they could almost sit up—were fed a steady diet of commercial-based mindless programming that exposed them to all of the gotta-have-items-of-the-day that they begged mommy and daddy into submission for each night.

Some grew-up and evolved watching shows like Jerry Springer, Maury and Entertainment Tonight; while others became double-chinned, statistical experts, albeit not by advanced education--but by the teachings of ESPN.

These lords of the sports bar—mouth-breathing masters of the buffalo wing-n-beer pitcher special--can spout the most worthless stats about their sports heroes in a drunken stupor 24/7--yet most can’t run down a basketball court—much less hit the hoop—thanks to their years of dedicated “television inspired conditioning.”

It’s that conditioning that has clouded a generation of Americans ability to understand the decline of our nation’s standing in the free world and their future ability to watch Lebron or any of their favorite players play.

You see, if you’re unemployed or underemployed--you can’t pay for game tickets, cable, or food, or rent—but it’s OK cuz Lebron’s comin’ to Miami and Li-lo’s goin’ to jail—while Rome is burning.