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(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans thinks that we can learn valuable lessons from the extreme weather that brought 2008 to a close – especially when it comes to preparing for emergencies – of all kinds.

(SEAMANS) From this winter’s heavy storms we can salvage something positive  by acknowledging the lessons they have offered on how to handle similar events in the future.  

One of my first impressions is how really unprepared the general public is to cope with extreme emergencies.  This, despite the fact that we the people grow up aware of our area’s expectable storm challenges, yet so many put off getting ready.  Witness the lines at Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart and local hardware stores as we buy out generators, flashlights, batteries and other emergency supplies AFTER, and I repeat AFTER the storm has hit.  It’s a litmus test that shows how so many people are not prepared to face the ultimate disaster – a terrorist attack.  The lesson is that the public must be imbued with the same sense of urgency that drives the anticipation and the training of our first responders.

The importance of the cell phone emerged from the storms as another significant lesson.  Thousands of people were isolated by fallen trees and live power lines, and their regular phones were cut off.  Enter the cell phone which became, as for my family, the only communication we had with the outside world, especially with the mutual aid people who wanted to know about any extreme personal emergencies.

Another storm lesson was the extreme utility of home generators, which solved, as least temporarily, the electricity outage problem for those who could afford them.  They provided emergency power that kept people warm, ran critical medical equipment, and saved uncountable tons of food and uncountable damage-repair dollars by preventing water pipes from freezing and breaking.

We learned again that perhaps the most important emergency facility was local radio which kept us informed as we listened to our battery powered portables.  Thousands of people who live in outlying areas must drive to town to work or for various other reasons.  One of the first things they want to hear in the morning is whether the roads are passable or are they storm-stricken.  Radio is the primary source of this information.  We could say that local radio is the right arm of our emergency people as it broadcasts their situational and perhaps even life saving advisories to the people.

Above all, the lesson that emerged again was the generous wllingness of the people to help others in distress – one of the reasons that make our part of the world such a great place to live.

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