The Peter Pan of the Pandemic Flu at the river of de Nile

I’m in the middle of writing a course on how to plan and prepare for the Pandemic Flu.  Not your usual soft-skill course on self-esteem,  leadership, or team-building.  Pretty sobering stuff.  Brings you down to brass tacks.   No doubt about it, there could be great suffering–not just for the people in Pakistan, the Congo, or Louisiana, but for people who almost have their mortgage paid, who raised great kids, who never smoked, drank, or did drugs.  The 1918 Pandemic Flu attacked a group of people that the experts couldn’t predict:  the young adults in their 20’s and 30’s.  Apparently, their immune system was too good and over-reacted almost like an autoimmune disease.  More soldiers died from the flu than in battle.

We literally cannot imagine this happening in our blackberry world, so we don’t.  If we start to get an inkling, we hide it under our pillows where it might come into our dreams.  The only way we can handle it is to deny it.  We all live at that river in Egypt called de Nile.  It’s a subconscious safety mechanism that many Westerners still have.  Death is not the default for them at the river of de Nile.  Peter Pan takes us to Never-Never Land where terrible things Never happen.  It makes us naive and childish–that’s how others from the world view us when we are not looking.

“How can bad things happen to good people!”  “Where is God; there can’t be a God!”  Tantrums start with otherwise intelligent, educated, professional people.  There is no vaccine; there is no magic bullet.  No matter how good your diet is, how much you exercise and do yoga, how much you disinfect and clean things that don’t need to be cleaned—you are still vulnerable; we all are.

To be realistic, we can’t face this head-on.  We just don’t have the capacity.  But just turn your head a little each day, and take deep breaths–you know how to do that from your yoga classes.  You can start taking one foot in front of the other and leave Never-Never land.  Say goodbye to de Nile.

If you are a Westerner, especially an American, your first reaction will be, “So what can I do?  Let’s be pro-active.”  (Are they still saying pro-active?).  Well, actually there are things you can do.  Many things. I’m not giving websites here.  If you’ve gotten this far, you know how to google.  (My spell-check doesn’t recognize google?)  But basically, it comes down to what made America great.  It’s the best team-building exercise to raise leaders.  You need take your hands away from the keyboard; get up from your chair, and look outside the window–you know which one I mean.  Those people who live in the apartments or houses next to you can save your life.  If you don’t know how to communicate with them now, you won’t be able to in a crisis when you’ll wish your blackberry was the fruit.  You might want to keep some of those things called books, because they don’t need electricity to entertain you or to take you to another world, and you might really need that when you are stuck in your house because the government has called for quarantine or “social distancing.”  Are you googling yet?  Because I’m not going to give you this on a silver platter, only the silver lining.

Think of John Lennon’s song, Imagine.  Now put your own words to it, something like this:

Imagine there’s no power

no electricity or running water

imagine there are no shops open

or petrol to run my car

Imagine all the people…


5 Responses to “The Peter Pan of the Pandemic Flu at the river of de Nile”

  1. 1 Dave Carson
    August 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Just finished “The Edge of Disaster.” Flynn exposes a lot of problems with American infrastructure, but his main answer is for the Federal government to take over more control and provide more funding. That may be the case in a few areas, but resilience begins in the neighborhood (as Mr. Rogers might say :)). One thing I focus on in emergency planning at work is getting to know people in other organizations with whom we will have to cooperate to promote data-sharing. Of course in a flu pandemic, those people may be sick or dead. It still helps to be able to say “I worked with your predecessor on critical infrastructure planning.”

    Living in Florida makes it a little easier, as we have to lay in hurricane supplies every year.


    • August 28, 2010 at 9:26 pm

      Your point is so crucial: getting to know people in other organizations with whom we have to cooperate

      This is more important than just about anything else besides personal hygiene. This will either save us or kill us. What bothers me right now is the factionalism that I sense in America. Also bureaucracy is so filled with egotism–agencies compete with each other, hoard data instead of sharing it–all for power.

      I think everyone should take their family camping for vacation. That is also a good way to learn self-reliance. Could you share the list of things that you have in your hurricane supply kit?

  2. 3 Dave Carson
    August 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Most of the worst egotism in organizational America is at the highest levels. Our director has a bad relationship with the director of the organization with which we cooperate in the county’s Public Works and Engineering Emergency Support Function. Our crews will be moving behind theirs as post-hurricane debris is cleared to get to our facilities and restart and/or repair them, so communication is important. We peons at the lower levels have had to work around the animosity, and generally do that well based on our technical affiliations. We’ll get the job done despite the higher-ups :).

    Budget cuts have made things a lot worse, mainly by displacing people. A recent Post-Disaster Response Committee meeting was full of people new to their duties in that regard. We had a very functional ESF command center that had been improved over years, but the County Administrator ordered that leased facilities no longer be used, so we had to give it up. The good part is that we had just constructed a new facility with some space for that, but it makes cooperation with the other agencies that were co-located in the old place more difficult.

    Hurricane supplies are basically two weeks worth of anything needed, especially canned food and one gallon per day per person of bottled water. Also a bottled gas stove and extra charcoal for the grill. We try to keep a higher level of medications on hand during hurricane season as well. I’m looking for a very small DC refrigerator to store medications that must be kept cold.

  3. 4 Dave Carson
    August 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Oh yeah, the camping idea is great. Outi does not camp, but Tom and I have and I am longing to do a little when it cools down.

  4. August 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    What I would like to get is a solar charger for my Ipod!

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