The situation that has been unfolding in Haiti following the recent earthquake is a sobering reminder of just how vulnerable our modern way of living is, especially for those of us who live in urban areas. Having spent some time in big cities, I marvel that they work at all. People have grown to depend upon the intricate interrelationships of very complex systems that provide us with the essentials of life–food, water, shelter, transportation, medical care, and SECURITY.
I like to think that in an emergency situation, people will pull together to help one another, but we’ve seen plenty of evidence that when people are in desperate straits, some of them can get very nasty and behave badly toward one another. The breakdown of order is probably the greatest worry.
Besides the limited and damaged port facilities, security concerns seem to account for the long delay in the arrival of rescue teams and the delivery of emergency relief from outside. A report in the UK Telegraph titled, Haiti earthquake: gunshots and panic as locals fight back against looters, describes what is happening in Haiti. I have heard that in such situations it takes about 72 hours for order to break down if relief supplies and peace-keeping forces do not arrive within that time.
It is true that Haiti is underdeveloped and lacking in resources, but that should not cause us to think the same cannot happen here in the US or other “developed” countries, it has– in New Orleans, just a few years ago.
Sustainability groups everywhere would do well to include emergency preparedness and disaster planning in their studies and action plans.
One useful source of information on this comes from James Wesley Rawles, an experienced military planner. See his The Daily Web Log for Prepared Individuals Living in Uncertain Times.