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Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Altered Perspective

It’s likely that I’ve before revealed that I’m a Lancastrian from Pennsylvania; it’s a fact I'm becoming strangely and inexplicably proud of. That said, it stands to reason that I know the slightest something about snow, sleet, rain and the problems that too much of it can cause.

Since joining the emergency management field, I’ve gained a new and, for sure, wide-angle appreciation for the scope of work it takes to recover a community or a household for that matter. It’s an obvious but overlooked fact – the “disaster” doesn’t end when the skies clear.

We’re four weeks removed from the big January storm that dropped masses of snow and rain across a wide, latitudinal band of Arizona. Heavy rains caused landslides and flooding in several Arizona communities, and, at higher elevations, there were power outages and roof collapses.

Excluding a morning field trip aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter (coolest thing ever!), I was cooped up in the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) writing releases, flyers and fact sheets, answering media calls and supervising the Arizona Emergency Information Network social networks.

Flood waters have since receded and once impassible roads have reopened, but there remains a long road ahead for those who saw their home or business damaged or destroyed. Disaster recovery takes time, sometimes years.

I once heard someone in the Arizona Division of Emergency Management Recovery Office put it this way, “It could take five years to recover from an event that lasts five days.”

In college, I never really thought about blizzards or floods or fires in terms any greater than how it affected me. I wanted to know whether classes were cancelled. That was the extent of my interest.
What it comes down to is that this current career field has given me perspective. I get that a flash flood can have repercussions that last for a year. Honestly, I might have known these things all along; ultimately, it took a move Phoenix for me to pay any mind.

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