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Responding to Natural Disasters

Wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, need an emergency kit

I feel so lucky that my academic career and passion for Earth history has prepared me for the global events we are now experiencing. Though some would argue that pandemics are not natural disasters, it is clear to me that pandemics meet the basic definition of a natural disaster as "a natural event that occurs over a limited time span, within a defined area, and causes damage and/or loss of life". Like all natural disasters, pandemics can be mitigated through planning and preparation, and when we fail to mitigate appropriately humans make natural disasters worse. Pandemics are natural, unless bio-engineered by humans, and spread through ecological communities the same way they have for millions of years.

As part of my goal to understand natural disasters of the past, because I find them fascinating and in order to be prepared for the future, I have studied how past pandemics began, and how they spread through time and space. As a result of this knowledge, I have chosen to react to the present rapid changes in the world from a place of knowledge of natural disasters & human anatomy, and from the acquisition of new human health knowledge from trusted scientific sources. National Geographic has done a wonderful job of responsibly covering the pandemic as it unfolds.

The best way to prepare a community for any natural disaster, present or future, is to support focused education and community preparedness. How can you best respond and prepare now? The same way you survive other natural disasters, by staying safe & well. Educate yourself, have a go-bag packed in case you need to evacuate, and remember to pack basic safety supplies like water, breathing mask, eye protection, clothes to protect your skin, and sturdy shoes. During a pandemic, wear a mask when you are around people whom you do not live with, wash your hands frequently, try to stop touching your face (I am still working on this and failing more often then not), and avoid crowds and air space recently inhabited by others. Be prepared for secondary hazards like overwhelmed medical care systems, disruption to supply chains, and disruption of transportation networks. As is the case with every natural disaster, survival depends on how you react, protect yourself, and anticipate secondary hazards. Begin by educating and preparing yourself.

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