Desastres indiferentes

por Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 01, 2012
From the October 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By the time you get this issue, hurricane season in the Atlantic, which runs from June through November, will be nearing its end. Of note this season, Isaac, a category 1 storm, made landfall near New Orleans one day shy of the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Isaac was a much weaker storm, though, and Gulf residents were better prepared than when Katrina hit in 2005, thanks in part to a $14.5 billion levy system, rebuilt in the wake of Katrina. Local health care providers were also better prepared, helped by disaster readiness programs set up after the earlier storm.

For instance, in last month's issue we interviewed and featured Ochsner Health System, a New Orleans chain that operated one of the only hospitals to stay open during Katrina. They say the experience has changed how they prep for potentially catastrophic weather events. An Ochsner executive told me they now put their emergency generators on flatbed trailers, so they can drive them to clinics or sites that really need them. They also hold regular meetings with other health care providers in the community to go over product inventories and make sure everyone has enough critical supplies.

Reading about disasters, or near-disasters, however, always drives one thing home to me: I have no skills that would be useful in an emergency. I can't fix a car, clean a gun, orient myself in unfamiliar surroundings, perform basic first aid, swim competently or talk down a mob.

Luckily, like most people I know, my utility in survival situations has not been tested. The only hurricane I've experienced was Hurricane Irene, which whipped over New York City at the end of August last year, by then, weakened to a mere tropical storm.

Irene did not destroy New York, but everyone worried it would. A friend and his wife were staying with my wife and me at the time, and we spent a long, soaking weekend, the four of us, trapped in our tiny pseudo-one bedroom in Brooklyn as the storm dropped its watery load. Like a lot of New Yorkers, we stocked up far more than was necessary. My friend, who has a survivalist bent, even bought a machete from the local hardware store. When I asked him why we would need it, he said, "In case there are looters," as though he would stand in the doorway to our apartment, flashing the blade against the oncoming hordes.

Irene might have been a bust, but I have lived through one noteworthy, and horrific, natural disaster, the 2004 tsunami that struck Thailand. I was there vacationing with friends. I don't remember any of it - not because I was so traumatized that my mind mercifully forbids remembrance, but because when it was happening I simply had no idea what was going on.

Chalk it up to the obliviousness of tourists. True, we were in Bangkok when the quake struck, which was largely spared the effects of the tsunami, and not Phuket, a southern island popular with tourists that was among the worst hit places. But we still didn't find out about the undersea earthquake and resulting tsunami until several days later, when checking our e-mails at an Internet café[<00E9>][<00E9>] one afternoon we saw messages from friends asking if we were still alive. At first we thought it was some kind of bizarre prejudice against the safety of Thailand, but then I looked at the TV nearby which was broadcasting CNN International, and we finally understood.

My rather macabre friend who was traveling with me then decided to reassure everyone who asked if we were OK. He sent them all this e-mail: "This is an automated notice from Google. This account is no longer active..."

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