Aug 30, 2012
With its remote location and dependence on the uninterrupted flow of supplies from the lower 48 states, the Governor of Alaska has made disaster readiness a hallmark of his administration.
Gov. Sean Parnell worries a major earthquake or volcanic eruption could leave the state’s 720,000 residents stranded and cut off from food and supply lines. His answer: Build giant warehouses full of emergency food and supplies, just in case.
For some in the lower 48, it may seem like an extreme step. But Parnell says this is just Alaska.
“We have a different motivation to do this, because help is a long ways away,” said John Madden, Alaska’s emergency management director.
The state plans two food stockpiles in or near Fairbanks and Anchorage, two cities that also have military bases. Construction on the two storage facilities will begin this fall, and the first food deliveries are targeted for December. The goal is to have enough food to feed 40,000 people for up to a week, including three days of ready-to-eat meals and four days of bulk food that can be prepared and cooked for large groups. To put that number into perspective, Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, has about 295,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Juneau, its third largest, about 31,000.
It’s not unusual for states that routinely experience hurricanes or other large-scale disasters to have supplies like water, ready-to-eat meals, cots and blankets. But Alaska is interested in stocking food with at least a five-year shelf life that meets the nutrition, health and cultural requirements of the state’s unique demographics.
An estimated 90 percent of commodities entering Alaska are delivered through the Port of Anchorage. Air service is also a critical link to the outside world and generally the only way to reach many rural communities. A volcanic blast emitting a large amount of smoke and ash could disrupt supply lines by air and water for an extended period, Madden said, and an earthquake could knock out airport runways or ports. Those are just some of the disasters that might require emergency supplies.
State officials have been working to encourage individual responsibility, with talks at schools and public gatherings. Emergency management officials plan to have a booth at the Alaska State Fair. A statewide disaster drill is planned for October.
Over the past year, the state has acquired or purchased water purification units and generators designed to work in cold climates, including units that could power facilities like hospitals, Madden said. Officials also are determining what the state needs in terms of emergency medical supplies and shelter, he said.
Source: Business Week
Alaska’s Governor understands the fragility of modern just-in-time supply lines, and rather than leaving his state completely unprepared for a disaster as Louisiana did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he is taking steps to have at least the bare necessities on hand in the event of a worst-case scenario.
Of note is that the State will only be stockpiling about five days worth of food and critical supplies for its population. Definitely a good start, but certainly not enough for any prolonged disaster that may strike their ports or the Continental United States. That’s why they are urging individuals to take it upon themselves to prepare as well.
As we have seen with every major disaster in the world over the last century, when an emergency strikes the government will be overwhelmed. Help will not be on the way – police, medical personnel and local government could potentially disappear in a serious emergency as first responders would go home to be with their families, or simply be out of contact due to downed communication lines.