By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer-
NEW YORK– – In weather-related or natural disasters, the most vulnerable citizens are often left to fend for themselves or are unprepared. The New York City-based International Preparedness Network, concerned that support services are not accessible to Blacks, Latinos and other people of color when most needed during extreme disasters are organizing a movement using Hurricane Katrina as the backdrop.
“We are launching a “National Urban Self Reliance and Preparedness” campaign on August 29 the day that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005,” Aton Edwards, executive director of the International Preparedness Network told The Final Call.
More than 2,000 people died as a direct result of the storm and levee break. The racial make-up broken down by Louisiana State University and released in 2007 said 54 percent of those who died during Hurricane Katrina were Black. Forty percent of fatalities were White, 4 percent Asian and Native American and 2 percent were Latino.
The NAACP Emergency Management Committee has released a study on their national webpage saying “African American communities are disproportionately vulnerable and are impacted by disasters–due to socio-economic vulnerability such as a pervasive lack of wealth, and relative lack of mobility; while also concluding that African American households are significantly less prepared for disasters than White Americans.”
Mr. Edwards said it is critical this dynamic changes. He said IPN is building a coalition of activists using Hip Hop artists, media personalities and religious leaders to get the word out that the time is now for Black people to “Ready-Up!”.
Mr. Edwards insists “Black people foolishly overlook and dismiss it– despite the devastating consequences we experience each time we are confronted by one–I’m talking about disasters and our lack of preparedness for them.”
Rev. Darren Ferguson, pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Far Rockaway, Queens explained why he joined the ‘Ready Up-NOW!’ campaign on the IPN webpage: “Back in 2012, our church was devastated by ‘Super Storm Sandy’. We have rebuilt since then, but I remember the hard lessons we learned during that period. One of the most important is that– we are horribly unprepared for disasters and emergencies.”
The time has come for Black people to do-for-self, as Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Black Panther Party instructed many years ago; and learn how to prepare ourselves against disasters and any other emergency that we will encounter, Mr. Edwards pointed out.
The community can begin with three simple steps according to IPN including: create a disaster preparedness survival plan for friends and family, building an emergency water and food supply and creating a “go-bag” with supplies needed in case you must leave your home.
These three steps are the first on the path to preparedness. If people follow them they are headed in the right direction said Mr. Edwards.
“The stakes are far too high for us to stand idly by, wait for the next catastrophe and hope that the government will take care of us, given their track record with our community. Remaining completely dependent upon the local, state and federal authorities is nothing more than a foolish exercise in futility,” he added.
For more information about the Ready-Up-NOW! National Black Disaster Preparedness/Self-Reliance effort, visit readyforanything.org or email [email protected].