​FEMA Announces National Preparedness Month soon after Hurricane Ida


Photo curtesy of Wikipedia

“Sea ice reflects 50% to 70% of incoming solar radiation while the dark ocean surface only reflects 6%, so melting sea ice is a self-reinforcing feedback.”

On Sept. 1, FEMA announced September as National Preparedness Month, “an annual observance to remind all Americans how important it is for individuals, families and communities to be prepared for disasters and emergencies that can happen at any time,” according to FEMA. 

‘Any time’ has become more frequent in the past years, even activating emergency warnings for the first time ever. 

Hurricane Ida’s disastrous impact in Louisiana –– which is estimated to be the seventh costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. since 2000 –– also brought historic flooding in New York and New Jersey; on Sept. 1 Hurricane Ida caused the National Weather Service of New York to issue a “Flash flood emergency” warning for the first time, issuing it for Northeast New Jersey first, then an hour later for NYC.

“Flash Flood EMERGENCY is issued for the EXCEEDINGLY RARE situations when extremely heavy rain is leading to a severe threat to human life and CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE from a flash flood is happening or will happen soon. Typically, emergency officials are reporting LIFE THREATENING water rises resulting in water rescues/evacuation,” Weather.Gov reported.

According to ABC News, flash flood emergency warning is the highest level of flood alert (there’s flood watch, flood warning, and flash flood emergency) and was added by the National Weather Service on Feb. 4, 2014. 

While Americans were being hit by Ida, wildfires simultaneously ravaged and continued to spread in California. The Dixie fire has burned “960,335 acres since Sunday, an increase of 31,594 acres since Sept. 9.” The Caldor Fire, burning 218,459 acres as of  Sept.10 was not the firefighters’ only priority; They also had to divert their efforts to the lightning fires that occurred Sept. 9 throughout El Dorado County. 

Even though California’s wildfires haven’t been fully contained, the Atlantic has begun to brew other storms. Tropical Storm Nicholas is on its path to the Texas Coast and Louisiana, while a tropical wave and a low-pressure area have a high probability of strengthening into tropical depressions within the next five days. Hurricane season is far from over, not ending until November 30, 2021.

Climate change’s ringing alarm couldn’t be louder; the consequences of previous government inaction to address the climate change crisis has proven to be catastrophic. America being impacted by natural disasters or climate emergencies back-to-back.

Not only are these natural disasters –– which are a direct result of human activity (primarily usage of fossil fuels)–– a threat itself due to the imminent danger they impose (such as flooding or wildfires), but climate change also threatens our health.

On Sept. 5, 230 medical journals published a joint editorial calling for urgent action to limit global warming: “The science is unequivocal: a global increase of 1.5° C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.” 

The joint editorial warns governmental organizations of climate change’s impending catastrophe on human health after viewing the health effects of global temperature rise in the past 20 years:

“Indeed, no temperature rise is safe. The risks to health of increases above 1.5° C are now well established. In the past 20 years, heat-related mortality among people over 65 years of age has increased by more than 50%. Higher temperatures have brought increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality,” the joint editorial reported. 

In the midst of the U.S. battling COVID-19, climate change is another creeping pandemic approaching and strengthening if we don’t take action now. 

“Thriving ecosystems are essential to human health, and the widespread destruction of nature, including habitats and species, is eroding water and food security and increasing the chance of pandemics,” the joint editorial added.

 The joint editorial reminding governments that despite “necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.” Especially if they don’t want to deal with a new one. 

President Biden has acknowledged that climate change is fueling these historic natural disasters that are occurring more frequently. The start of tackling a problem is acknowledging that there is one. 

“We’re living through it now. We don’t have any more time, every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather. We can’t turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse,” said Biden.

Biden promised not only to repair the destruction of both storms but to invest in our country’s future. 

“And when I talk about building back better — and Chuck is fighting for my program — our program on the Hill — I mean, you can’t build to what it was before this last storm.  You’ve got to build better, so if the storm occurred again, there would be no damage,” said Biden.

The president is pushing two bills: a $1 trillion infrastructure plan waiting to be passed by the House (already passed in the Senate in Aug.) and his $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which is in jeopardy of failing to pass the Senate on Sept. 27.  

According to White House.gov, the $ 1 trillion infrastructure plan, “makes transformational and historic investments in clean transportation infrastructure, clean water infrastructure, universal broadband infrastructure, clean power infrastructure, remediation of legacy pollution, and resilience to the changing climate.” 

Apart from legislative efforts to address climate change, Biden of course launched “National Preparedness Month,” providing PSA’s on not only how to enhance their emergency preparedness efforts but to inform Americans of the reality of our current state. Natural disasters can occur at any moment and more so than ever due to the climate changing in intensity and severity as global warming increases. 

Despite this campaign’s good samaritan efforts, I hope that Biden and Congress work together to tackle global warming because no matter the plans an individual makes to prepare for a disaster, it isn’t enough to tackle the issue of climate change. Government organizations must step up and quickly. 

 “No country, no matter how wealthy, can shield itself from these impacts,” the Joint Medical Editorial reported.

The climate change crisis has increased the urgency and importance of preparing for an emergency/climate disaster. During “National Preparedness Month” FEMA has prepared these weekly themes:

Week 1 September 1-4: Make A Plan 

Week 2 (Sept. 5-11) Build a Kit

Week 3 (Sept. 12-18) Low-Cost, No-Cost Preparedness

Week 4 September 19-25: Teach Youth About Preparedness