Sep. 23—Bucks County officials want more residents to sign up for emergency alerts, while
Three weeks after the remnants of Hurricane Ida ravaged the region, emergency response officials are still dealing with its aftermath. They're also hoping the unprecedented storm will prompt residents to prepare for the next one.
With record-breaking river crests and rainfall, Ida left a grim lesson in its wake. As public officials and responders assess how to adapt for the next weather disaster, they said one of the first steps is helping the public do the same.
"As severe weather keeps barging through the front door of so many Americans, we have to start [saying]: 'This is about me. This is about my family and my neighbors. I need to know what to do during the moment of crisis,' " said
Ida caused destruction and deaths in
Communities are "still struggling to recover," State Rep.
Those affected across the region are still cleaning up and applying for federal assistance. Impacted Pennsylvanians were eligible as of Monday to apply for temporary disaster unemployment assistance,
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As more climate-related weather disasters occur across the country, they change the way Americans think about whether it will happen to them. In the
"You just don't have the luxury of saying, 'Oh, this is so atypical, it'll never happen again,' " said
Learn from experience
Experts say the new challenges are shaped by the unpredictability of tropical storms and flash flooding; a shortage of volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel; and floods and tornadoes in areas that never before experienced them.
"We know that we're going to be impacted ... but a lot of times we don't know where they're going to occur until they start occurring," said
That means the public needs to be prepared. Residents should ensure emergency alerts, such as those from the
Several said they hoped residents would remember two things: Never drive into standing water, no matter how shallow it looks, and do not wade into a flooded basement if the electricity is still on.
It also means not counting on first responders to save you, say emergency services managers in the region. Though they rescued hundreds of people across the counties, some stressed that they cannot always save people who drive into standing water or immediately reach every affected pocket in a fast-moving, widespread flood.
That's particularly true given the shortage of volunteer emergency responders that has grown over decades.
"The public needs to take these weather events serious just like emergency services people do," said
Emergency managers also say people who live near rivers, streams, or areas prone to flooding should not go to sleep when heavy storms are predicted and should seek higher ground when a
The public should create disaster plans and prepare supplies using guidance from ready.gov, and they should memorize flood and tornado safety tips, experts said.
And those plans could go beyond their own household.
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But the other major challenge is getting people to take warnings seriously. People tend to underestimate the risk: "They generally think it pertains to someone else," Wright said, and "have this sense that they're going to be OK."
"I'm sure there will be things as leaders in the Southeast we talk about ... [how can we] respond a little differently the next time this happens," said
An accurate perception of risk is what some local leaders were hoping people across the state would take away — just as Californians have learned to prepare for annual wildfires and Texans guard against future power outages — while Ida is still fresh in their minds.
"It creates a critical moment of learning," said Wright, "that says: I can't just ignore this; it can and does happen here."
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