The fault with Ebola can be spread far and wide. Start with our Homeland security not seeing Ebola as a threat. Move to a do-nothing congress unwilling to fund research and development, equipment and training. Then look at a racist, hubris filled country which did not demand action while this disease was decimating African nations and believes that somehow chanting USA! USA! makes us better and more capable than other nations. That is the pot.
Next add a drug industry uninterested in developing medications and treatments for conditions and diseases which don’t pay and instead concentrate on developing drugs for men (Viagra, Cialis) and the wealthy (Botox, Cancer treatments). Stir in apathy and a large portion of unwillingness to see beyond the bottom line.
Bring to a boil over a fire of mistaken belief that Americans are John Wayne clones who can handle any threat with enough gun fire.
Now go to Texas where these beliefs are exaggerated. Enter a corporate hospital where oversight is slack, and budgeting focuses on corporate gain instead of patient care. Investment in employee training and personal protective equipment is minimal, despite the deaths overseas and the growth of local refugee populations. Overconfidence and lack of understanding of the situation upon patient admission left any who came in contact exposed. The incompetence and lack of training of the state and local health departments as well as the hospital’s concerns about liability (nurses were advised to use their best judgement) combined with a media mandate to minimize the threat in order to not “cause a panic” despite the very facts they were reporting, to create an environment in which contamination and transmission were practically guaranteed.
Finally, sprinkle liberally with a health care system that encourages the poor to stay away from diagnosis and treatment until they are in extremis and you have not just a recipe, but a mandate for disaster. At each level ignorance, greed, overconfidence, dodging of responsibility and racism are putting not just Americans, but the entire hemisphere at risk.
However, this is hardly the time to be divesting ourselves of experts. Reporters at CNN stated “Americans don’t want to be told to stay at home and watch daytime TV for three weeks”. Of course we don’t. But, it doesn’t matter what we want now. It doesn’t matter what the bottom line is. It doesn’t matter how many guns you have or what political party you belong to. We have to put all that aside, admit it and deal with it.
Ebola is a deadly epidemic and it’s here. It’s in Dallas, and it’s quite possibly cropping up in other Texas cities, in New Haven, Connecticut and perhaps Ohio. It will show up in other places. We can’t close our borders to disease. A wall won’t keep it out. America is going to have to buckle down and prepare. We will have to spend money. We will have to learn something. We will have to train people.
We don’t have time to argue about blame. That will have to wait. We need to get to work. Together.
With all the recent disasters we see and hear about, it’s human nature to want to help our neighbors both near and far in need. But it’s often not clear what is the best way to really be of assistance. This is why I am reprinting a post on this subject from a federal disaster worker at AllExperts.com.
What would you say are the best things to do after a major disaster? To help someone else, not yourself.
John, thanks for asking.
If you are not in a disaster but want to assist people who have been affected by one, there are several things you can do. There are also certain things you should not do.
First, support organizations which are responding to the disaster. Non-profit organizations which respond to disasters are not funded by the government and need financial support. Choose your favorite, the one you think does the most good and donate money to them. You can find a list of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) here: http://www.nvoad.org/ These are recognized organizations and will not scam you.
Unless specifically requested, do not donate clothing, food or other items. During Hurricane Andrew, tons of donated items had to be disposed of in Florida (fur coats, kitchen utensils, old shoes) because they were not needed and/or there were not enough people available to sort through them. There was no place to store much of the donations and they became wet, moldy and a health hazard.
There are agencies in the NVOAD (above) who do take donations of clothing, food, water and other in-kind donations, so check with them and ask what they need.
Seeing the suffering caused by a disaster makes most people want to help in some way. If you would like to volunteer, go ahead and find an organization which can give you the proper training and credentials so that you can really help. Many NVOAD groups have free classes in disaster response and relief and you can sign up and take them. Other agencies have need for people with special skills (counseling, social work, massage therapy, cooking, building, etc,) and are happy to find new volunteers.
Please don’t just go to a disaster area to volunteer. There are several reasons for this, First, disaster areas are usually dangerous with debris and limited emergency services. Police and sheriff’s departments are stretched thin, as are fire departments, paramedics and hospitals. Trying to find a place for unattached volunteers to work is just not a priority when disaster survivors need their attention.
During Hurricane Katrina, fire departments from all over the country just took it upon themselves to travel to Louisiana. I was there at the firefighters’ staging area. Although their hearts were in the right place, it was sometimes a strain on local responders trying to find them a place to stay and assign them to work teams. You don’t really think about it, but when people’s homes are destroyed, they are staying in motels and eating at restaurants. If too many workers come into the area, they take up those rooms that the disaster stricken families need. When I first got to Katrina, there was no power and no food shipments coming in. I went to a Burger King drive in one night and the sign said, “We have burgers, no buns.” The next night I went through and it said, “We have buns, no burgers.”
I know this is a lot, but finally, let me say: be prepared.
-Get your home ready for a disaster, have a disaster go bag, water, medications, a disaster plan, a place to shelter inside the house.
-Designate a family meeting place and someone outside the area to contact in case you and your family get separated. (Sometimes phones don’t work locally but connect to other cities and states)
-Make sure you have appropriate insurance (Home owners insurance does not normally cover flood damage).
-Keep your important papers (deeds, car registration copies, insurance papers, utility bills) somewhere that is safe and waterproof
-Take them with you if you have to evacuate.
-Learn first aid and CPR, find out what your community’s emergency plans are.
-Vote. Pay attention to which of your representatives supports government disaster response. The money that goes to disaster victims is the money they (and you) have been paying in as taxes. It is your disaster savings account. And if it is ever your turn, you will need the same aid.
That about covers it. I hope you decide to become a disaster volunteer or get a job with a disaster agency or company. There’s no better feeling than helping someone who has lost everything. I know, I’ve been there.