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A Call to Arms  
by Bess W. Metcalf

You may not want to read this. I suggest that it is vitally in your interest to do so.   In my teens, while the horrors of WWII were still fresh in peoples' minds and Russia was rattling sabers, we practiced hiding under desks at school and covering our eyes, in case of a nuclear attack. This futile exercise distracted the population into thinking they were doing something useful, while traumatizing countless youngsters. Many families, with justified skepticism of government efforts and enough money to do so, built underground shelters complete with food, water and sanitary facilities. Others rationalized that the world the survivors eventually faced would be so horrible, it was better to die quickly.

Non-New Yorkers are beginning to protect their sense of security by relegating the totally unthinkable Twin Towers collapse to a status of a grim fairy tale; did it really happen? Or was it just an imaginary monster in the closet?  Doesn't it now seem unreal to you?

Officials say the delay in aid was due to the unexpected breach of the levees in New Orleans.  Where were the breached levees when aid to South Dade County after Hurricane Andrew took up to ten days in some areas?  The problem then and now is that we have no plans, because every disaster is "unexpected, unthinkable, unbelievable, unprecedented.. excuse, excuse....."

One benefit AND curse of reading a great deal of history, archaeology, etc. is that one is left with no sense of safety.  Those who prefer to think you're ok, I'm ok, God will protect us, etc. have sat by while the so-called Homeland Security officials twiddled their thumbs.  What has been accomplished by the government's disaster planning?  Zilch.  God forbid that it should have been a small dirty bomb or a biological attack instead of a hurricane.

The excuse is that no one ever expected such an "unprecedented disaster".  Wrong!   Indian Ocean tsunami.  Twin Towers and attack on the Pentagon.   Frequent famine and massacres in Africa and Asia that kill hundreds of thousands in "ethnic cleansing".  Earthquakes.  Krakatoa.  The San Francisco earthquake and fire a century ago, and Galveston's hurricane, probably worse than New Orleans' Katrina.  New Orleans has been below sea level for years; hurricanes always happen; levees and dams are never 100% secure.  How could they NOT expect this disaster sooner or later?  They did.  Protection was possible and planned, and the Federal Government refused to fund it.  The cost was a fraction of what this disaster will cost us all now.  They - and we the citizens - closed our eyes.

I will not frighten readers with much worse natural and human disasters that WILL happen, sooner or later, some in our lifetime.  Just take my word for it; they exist and many, historically, are overdue.

Therefore I'm encouraging you to send the page Call to Arms to everyone you know; to individuals (never underestimate the power of the "masses" of single persons), to the media, to organizations and to your government officials at every level.  Then don't forget - follow up.  Hound your officials for status updates.  Don't stop.

1. President, bring home our National Guard security forces immediately!  They  were not meant to fight a small war with a bitsy country that poses no present danger to us.  That's the military's job. National Guard was formed to protect our country on home ground.

2. Demand that Homeland Security immediately, within the year, coordinate an all-out effort with every state and all larger city governments for a "worst case" response plan, including:

  • How to provide immediate water and food during an emergency in every major city (plus surrounding towns and countryside)
  • How to evacuate an entire city in 24 to 48 hours, in case of biological, nuclear or natural disaster attack
  • Where to provide shelters, food and other necessities for these evacuees
  • How to protect on a priority basis medical and food storage facilities in case of major disaster
  • Call on citizens, companies and local governments to form brainstorming committees to explore possible ways to implement these requirements.
  • Provide for emergency funding for these efforts when they are required.
  • Plan to organize a volunteer organization of citizens to work with government agencies; those with skills to take decisive action in case of disaster, similar to the organization that existed in Great Britain, block by block, community by community, during WWII

3. Remove entirely our dependence on outside energy sources.  Yes, it IS possible.  We are the richest, most inventive country in the world, and we are letting oil, gas and coal companies manipulate our future, our security and our health, while the wealthy few in various industries laugh all the way to the bank.  How many people knew that most of our petroleum was offloaded ONLY at one port, and processed nearby?  I did, and expected a terrorist attack there for some time.

4. Provide tax incentives for the general population, in an ongoing basis, for purchasing low-energy use vehicles, appliances and industrial equipment.  Also for energy efficient homes, added insulation, wind resistant windows and doors, hurricane shutters, solar panels, and shade trees.

5. Provide tax incentives to builders AND consumers for houses built to resist hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.  Am I being naive?  Nope.  Habitat for Humanity built sprayed concrete homes throughout South Dade that had NO DAMAGE during Hurricane Andrew, while those around them were reduced to rubble.  This includes building homes at higher elevations (yes, even in New Orleans); they already require that in the Florida Keys.  The old "Florida Crackers" built their houses on stilts or pilings almost a century ago, and hundreds of thousands (including ours) are still there after multiple vicious hurricanes.

We must see an immediate, organized plan fall into place in case of future disasters.  Savings in lives, future insurance and energy costs, illness and anguish, and personal loss will surely offset this effort, in place of the disorganized and delayed response that now occurs whenever an "unthinkable" disaster occurs.  And imagine our peace of mind by arming ourselves with the knowledge that we are prepared, and what action we must take to protect ourselves and our families, when the next "unthinkable" event occurs!

Copyright Bess W. Metcalf  Sept. 2005
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