Mar 222011

The Japan earthquake and tsunami that followed left a wake of destruction and chaos from which the Japanese people will need years to recover.

While admittedly I cannot claim to have seen every second of mainstream media footage of the disaster, I did notice the post-tsunami footage revolved primarily around the immediate destruction and secondary problems that followed –– i.e. the disintegrating situation at Fukushima’s nuclear facility.

However, you can bet yourself there are difficulties for the Japanese people that far exceed what we imagine here in Fort Collins. For instance, the food shelves of every grocery store, convenience store and anything in between were wiped out within minutes, you can bet every bottle of water disappeared as well.

How prepared are you for a disaster? This question, albeit sans-tsunami/hurricane, should be a regular thought even for those of you yet to experience life as an emancipated minor. In fact, the further you are from home here in Fort Collins, the more often you should be contemplating the scenario.

CSU employs an emerging rock star in the field of the sociology of disasters, Lori Peek, Ph.D.

Peek conducted a post-disaster study of the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina provided a poorly timed bath for a city that in all honesty collectively, somewhat needed one.

Despite what you may think of the Bush administration’s response to Katrina, the reality of disasters, according to Dr. Peek’s findings and previously known disaster facts, indicates if you need to be rescued in the aftermath of a disaster, you will likely know your rescuer personally.

When I heard Dr. Peek provide a guest lecture several semesters ago, my immediate thought harkened back to the Boy Scout motto, admittedly largely lost on a population concerned far more with Tiger Blood and which drug-addled actress made her appearances sans-panties, “Be Prepared” sounds like an effective plan, but how?

Start researching disaster preparation and you’ll discover adequate preparation for a natural disaster is neither quick, nor inexpensive. You still have a responsibility to do it if you don’t want to be the rescue as opposed to the rescuer.

Preparation needs to begin at your house or apartment, and it needs to include all members of the home. If you have roommates who laugh you off, ask them when the last major tornado came through the area and how screwed they would be if it happened tomorrow and took out Horsetooth Dam or simply destroyed the power grid.

Most grocery store shelves stock between three and nine days of goods on their shelves for normal consumption. Were a disaster to strike Fort Collins, the scenes outside of every grocery store and Wal-Mart in the area would look like Black Friday footage, only with more stabbings. You think people went insane over Tickle-me-Elmo? Wait until you see what a mother of six will do to get the last bag of Doritos.

This is just basic common sense and these are principles we have gotten so far away from in the last century. Ironically, many of you have done some preparation unknowingly by participating in outdoor recreation.

First and foremost, you should have one gallon of water per person per day in your house. Obviously, since you don’t know how long you may be without potable water, you cannot have an infinite supply so what you need next is a method of purifying water and you need a plan of where you would get it.

Then of course is food, depending on how bad the disaster you may end up burning more calories than normal, plan on a minimum of seven days of food per person and you should target calorie-dense foods that store for long periods. The ideal scenario is you have 30 to 90 days of food storage in your home.

If you prepare to this level, you need to plan to defend it or share with those who can and will.

You do not have to do anything, but you are in college and have taken your first steps toward independence. Independence and liberty both require personal responsibility.

Disasters will strike –– will you be prepared?

Seth J. Stern is a senior journalism and sociology major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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