Our part-time Development Director, Rachel, is psychic. Her gift is uncanny. She accurately predicted, for example, that we would not be getting this major grant that we had applied to. Now she has been freaked out because she senses an earthquake is going to happen, a big one that will cause bridges to collapse. So she asked the Red Cross to come to a VFA staff meeting a deliver a short training on earthquake preparedness.
“All right,” said David of the Red Cross, who has an awesome beard, “who has done some emergency preparation at home?” A couple of us raised our hands. “Great,” he said, calling on people, “what steps have you taken?” We threw out answers like bought a first-aid kit, got a hand-crank radio, flashlight, etc. I was hoping he wouldn’t call on me, because I’m not sure if squirreling away vodka and olives-soaked-in-vermouth counted as emergency preparation.
The session scared the hell out of us by making us realize several things. First, we are not prepared at home. None of us have a minimum of three days’ supply of water, for instance. “Ideally,” said David, “you want seven days. One gallon of water per person per day.” It doesn’t need to be fancy, he said. We could, for example, just use empty two-litter soda bottles and fill them with tap water and put them in the closet. “Also,” he said, “designate an out-of-state contact to relay information, since local phone lines will probably be tied up with thousands of people all simultaneously trying to contact their families. If you call someone out-of-state, though, it’ll much more likely get through.”
Second, we are not prepared at the office. “So if an earthquake happens right now,” said David, his awesome beard making him look and sound very wise, “what would you do first?” Panic, I said. We all laughed. (I am sure the Red Cross never heard that one). However, after the laughter came the sad realization that that is exactly what might happen in an emergency. During a severe earthquake, the cubicles will probably collapse. Especially mine, which is right next to my top-heavy bookshelf, something that will likely fall over, trapping me under my cube. Fires might break out from our poor electric wiring. Our building is old, so fortunately, the asbestos ceiling tiles will probably fall down and put out the fires.
Considering that many of us spend more time at the office than at home, nonprofits must do a better job with our own emergency preparations. Not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our clients. “If an emergency happens,” said David, “community members may be relying on you guys for leadership, information, and services.” Crap, we thought, that’s right. Although we don’t focus on emergency preparedness programs, people in the area may still come to VFA during emergencies, because we’re one of the few nonprofits they know. We have to set a good example and manage a semblance of organization should something happen.
Sufficiently terrified by the training—and all good emergency prep trainings are terrifying—the VFA staff started dividing up tasks. Teresa and Connie updated our first-aid kits. Rachel and James went to Grocery Outlet to buy nonperishable food, water, and tools like flashlights and batteries. Others cleared the VFA office of rusty chairs and other junk that could kill us.
I was transferring heavier items from the top of my bookshelf to the bottom, and thinking of how to secure the whole thing to the wall, when Rachel and James came back with our emergency rations. They had bought flashlights, canned goods, several gallons of water, a giant tub of peanut butter, and several boxes of Wheat Thins. They laid them out in the middle of the office on the floor, then promptly got caught up in other work and forgot about everything. Several hours later, the supplies were still in the middle of the room. Unfortunately, this is what happens with emergency prep. It becomes urgent for two seconds, then completely deprioritized.
“Clean this up!” I said, fuming. “During an earthquake, I don’t want us getting killed by the flying canned goods we got in preparation for the earthquake!”
Obviously, we have a long way to go. But now we have flashlights, whistles, updated first-aid kits, glowsticks, emergency blankets, a radio, other tools, and enough water and food to last us a few days. This is very important, because even if Rachel is wrong and an earthquake doesn’t hit soon, I am sure that the zombie apocalypse is coming any time now. I can feel it. I am psychic too. After all, I did accurately predict that no one at VFA would be getting pay increases last fiscal year.