Chuck Wallace, Grays Harbor’s emergency management director, is geared up to help families make connections during natural disasters. This time, he’s on the other side of things.
His parents live in a high-rise condo on the Atlantic City, N.J., boardwalk and he hasn’t heard from them since Hurricane Sandy devastated the community Monday night. They are in their 80s and have health problems and he believes they stayed at home during the storm.
This morning, he heard for the first time from his brother who lives just outside Atlantic City. His brother and nephews are fine, but the brother has been unable to reach their parents to check on them, Wallace said.
“I talked to my parents about preparedness but they managed to deal with Hurricane Irene last year, numerous tropical storms and countless Nor’easters over the years,” Wallace said. “ ‘Our building has a generator, we’ll be alright’ is the habitual message I receive when I talk to them. The problem is, the generator is on the 1st floor and Atlantic City was flooded under a 5-8 foot storm surge,” he said.
His parents have a cell phone, but have trouble answering it or retrieving messages, Wallace said. Plus, they would have no power.
“I told my mother to make sure she had cold food to eat in the event they lost power, but she kept bringing up the generator (in the building) saying it has always worked in the past. Are they hungry? Do they have usable water or has the Atlantic City water supply been contaminated and they had to resort to drinking bottled water? Of course they would never purchase bottled water because it’s too heavy to carry to their 4th floor apartment so what are they drinking?”
“… Lessons learned are often too late,” Wallace said. “Let my lesson be your wake up call. Prepare your family, your pets and your business for every event possible. Don’t allow old practices to dictate the need to be better prepared. Your family will appreciate it more than you know.”