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Many of us have watched the news and social media for the last week of the coverage of Hurricane Harvey and probably have experienced a myriad of emotions. Shock, fear, worry, sadness, and if we admit it, a bit of relief. Relief that it isn’t happening to us. Relief that our loved ones are safe. Our hearts are warmed as we see and hear stories of bravery as stranded survivors are rescued from roof tops and abandoned animals carried to safety.
As thousands of Texans face the unbelievable task of recovery, we go on with our daily lives here in Larimer County some 1,000+ miles away. But for many of us, the memory of similar disaster isn’t too far in the past. Just in the past 10 years, Larimer county has experienced the Windsor Tornado of 2008, High Park Fire in 2012, the devastating floods that affected much of Colorado in 2013 and the Berthoud Tornado in 2015.
After the floods in 2013, I worked in Boulder County with flood survivors. Before that time, I had never heard of 2-1-1. I had no idea what a valuable tool it could be both during a disaster/recovery and also any time when there is a need for community resources. Many of my flood recovery clients were among the most vulnerable populations; unemployed or under employed, elderly, single parents or immigrants. Many of my clients pre-flood lived a fairly normal, middle-class existence that was destroyed by the effects of the disaster. Loss of a job, day-care, vehicle or home severely impacted their life. As their case manager I worked to piece together their recoveries with the help of federal assistance, money donated to the Long Term Recovery Fund and volunteer assistance that allowed us to stretch the dollars as far as possible. Beyond the disaster recovery, much of what I helped them with were struggles that existed before the flood that were exacerbated by the disaster. I taught many of my clients to utilize the 2-1-1 resource for information on basic needs, financial counseling and even legal resources.
September is National Preparedness Month. I know many of us shy away when we hear the word preparedness. The truth is, when you stop and think about it, a lot of us are preparedness-minded. How many of us with an infant pack an extra diaper or two before heading out , ‘just in case’? What about when you pack for a trip and you add in an extra outfit or jacket, ‘just in case’? An afternoon at Grandma’s or a long weekend trip to the beach isn’t a scary situation. We allow ourselves to plan for the ‘just in case’ often. But when disaster, emergency or preparedness comes into play, we bury our heads in the sand and think that it won’t happen to us or we do an Oscar winning performance of Scarlett O’Hara, because, “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.”
Preparing doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. I plan to spend the next month or so with you to help get you started. I want to get you thinking and I want to show you how many resources this community provides to its citizens. I want to give you a glimpse into how the local government, non-profits, and faith based community think about you and your family’s safety and well-being all the time. I want to inform you about ways that you can learn more and get involved both now and during a disaster.
So join me and learn about personal, business, and community preparedness and how United Way’s 2-1-1 is involved and connected.
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County