Be prepared — to help

Be prepared — to help

The Pittsburgh area isn’t prone to hurricane strikes, even though remnants of Hurricane Ivan rumbled through in 2004, causing thousands of dollars in damages.
Neither is our region an active epicenter for earthquakes, though many of us felt the one last week that originated in Virginia and left cracks in the Washington Monument.
We do get tornados here, though they’re fairly infrequent. And, yes, we are prone to flooding, though nothing like the floods that devastated parts of the Midwest this year and the Upper Missouri River Valley.
Weather patterns in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia are far from perfect, but when it comes to natural disasters, one could argue that we’ve been blessed.
Well, this past weekend many residents of Jewish Pittsburgh were prepared to share their blessing with other Jews evacuating areas along the East Coast smack in the path of Hurricane Irene. Some came to Pittsburgh and were put up in homes of Jewish Pittsburghers (see our story, page 1). There were actually more offers of help than there were people who needed it.
That’s something to be proud of. Said Schmuel “Jay” Angel, executive director of Congregation Poale Zedeck, who sent out an e-blast seeking offers of help, “it was a real tribute to the community.”
True, and to make the response more impressive, no one was following any laid out plan of action in the event of a natural disaster. It just happened naturally.
That’s commendable, but it also begs a question: should there be a contingency plan of action in place?
Why not?
Even though Irene knocked out power to more than 5 million people, caused millions — perhaps billions — of dollars in damages, and is blamed for the deaths of at least 40 people, experts are saying the East Coast still got off relatively easy.
Irene’s wind strength barely reached that of a stage one hurricane as it came ashore. And it quickly weakened to a tropical storm. What if it were a stage two hurricane, or a stage three?
Things could have been very different.
It wouldn’t severely tax our community’s resources to develop a plan to lodge, feed and generally care for people fleeing from some future storm. We could even partner with the city and county or a broader blueprint for Jews and non-Jews alike.
Maybe it would never be needed — hopefully, it would never be needed — but it’s a good and humane tool to have.