My phone’s alarm rang at 6 am on March 3, 2020. I turned the alarm off and after a few minutes, I checked Facebook.
What I saw alarmed me. A strong tornado ripped through Nashville (Tennessee) between midnight and 3 am! To make things worse, I was in Raleigh, North Carolina attending a 3-day meeting. My wife and sons remained in Nashville.
The photos all over Facebook and the news showed buildings without roofs, overturned cars, and electricity poles blocking the roads!
After trying to call my wife several times, she texted me. They heard the tornado warnings, hid in the safe space at home, and when the tornado passed by, they went back to bed.
From my hotel room in Raleigh, I let out a sigh of relief!
After my plane landed at the Nashville International airport, I took a Lyft ride to our apartment complex.
My driver was originally from the Congo and when we entered our apartment complex, it looked like a ghost town! Electricity was out and except for a handful of weak light streaming out of windows, it was completely dark!
He exclaimed: “this looks like Africa!”
We both laughed. I hail from the Philippines and I have been to Kinshasa in the DR Congo. And yes, I have experienced black outs in those countries.
Are we too dependent on technology and electricity?
Technology and electricity are great… when they work! But take electricity out for a few days and you’d realize that we are too dependent on it. Because we are dependent on technology:
- We cannot cook food.
- We cannot wash our clothes.
- We cannot preserve our food in the fridge and freezer.
Thankfully our friends Mike and Lynn Ratliff let us borrow their camping stove powered by Propane gas, together with some battery-powered lamps. These things made our lack of electricity bearable. Thankfully, the temperature did not drop down below 40s–we would have frozen at home!
I am no stranger to disasters. Strong typhoons (hurricanes) frequently visited the Philippines, where I grew up. I’ve seen trees uprooted, roofs blown away, and walls torn down.
Some time in 1993, the longest electricity black out I experienced was two weeks! During those weeks, we cooked food over a firewood stove, used candles and kerosene-powered lamps, and endured evenings without television! This was, after all, the days before the Internet!
Fast forward to March 2020, the tornado we experienced in Nashville showed me a more devastating form of natural disaster. I could not begin to imagine the losses of folks who lost their houses, cars, and even lives!
Here’s several ways for us to prepare for disaster in the US:
Pay attention to weather warnings!
This one’s easy now, actually. Our smartphones have apps that alert us to weather-related dangers. Most neighborhoods also have sirens that would activate if there’s extreme weather coming. In the case of the Nashville tornado, the sirens blared loudly after 12am on March 3, 2020.
Store emergency supplies and equipment.
This may include the following:
- Camping stove powered by Propane or Butane
- Ice chest or cooler
- Battery-powered lamps or candles – just be careful not to cause fires!
- Preserved foods
- Weather radio: battery-powered or hand-crank
- Portable chargers or Power banks for smartphones
Since we already have electricity, I will make sure to have all of these in our home soon.
Practice disaster-preparedness drills at home.
Recently, we conducted a tornado drill at our office. That would also be helpful at home, especially now that we have two young boys. With changing weather patterns around the world, it would not hurt to practice and prepare for disasters.
Print a list of private and government organizations responsible for disaster relief.
Just a handy reference for organizations that would help us in time of need.
Natural disasters will happen!
Disasters will strike. Usually unannounced, and unpredictable. Thanks to technology, we are able to forecast and detect these natural disasters.
It’s also a good reminder that we are still at the mercy of nature. All we can do is to be prepared when disaster strikes close to us.