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Last updated: August 19. 2014 7:49AM - 298 Views
by Major Van Harl USAF Ret, vanharl@aol.com



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There is no such thing as 9-1-1 emergency services in Iraq or Afghanistan. When the next crisis comes (and they always do) in those countries, there are no first responders to bring instant assistance for fire, police and emergency medical needs. When what is left of a normal system degenerates into chaos in a society, the last bastion of relief is to flee the disorder, confusion and life threatening danger.


Except for a totally unexpected and instantaneous natural disaster such as an earthquake that takes out the entire US west-coast or an unprovoked nuclear weapons strike on the eastern seaboard, situations that generate refugees do not happen overnight. You do not go to sleep watching HBO on your TV and then wake up in the morning in Chicago and find yourself being forced to “bug-out” of your high-rise apartment on the lake front, with nothing but the shirt on your back. Political and social systems incrementally start to break down. In today’s twenty-four hour news industry, there will be plenty of warning that life in your neighborhood is turning into an unstable, crucial stage of degeneration and with some projected timeline of a deterioration rate. In other words there is little or no excuse for not seeing the “breakdown” coming and therefore no excuse for failure to plan and prepare.


Chicago has lost it utilities and water system due to some man-made crisis. The city is quickly falling apart, but this does not go unnoticed by the folks in the North (read Milwaukee). There is an unflattering term used in Wisconsin for Illinois residents: they are called FIBs (f—ing Illinois bastards). If people from Chicago start streaming across the state border looking for safety, they will overload the Milwaukee area. It is easier to start thinking in a derogatory way about of these helpless people, who you believe will only take from your family during a crisis. FIBs will just be another negative term used like “DP” (displaced person) was used to describe the inconvenient refugees of WWII. Barring a short term natural disaster scenarios, the US has not had a refugee issue in this country since the Civil War.


The collective “we” including me, cannot envision Americans pathetically and aimlessly walking down a road with a plastic bag full of their surviving positions in one hand, and an a half empty water bottle in the other, all while having the spouse and children following miserably in step behind. The Muslim community is the largest generator of refugees in the world, with Afghanistan producing most of these displaced people. And yet what I continue to see is photo after photo, of the typical refugee family attempting to walk to safety with open-toed sandals on their feet and no rucksack on each family member’s back, full of pre-planned and acquired emergency evacuation supplies. I know you are not supposed to blame the victim, but in some cultures victim-hood is always there (to include in the US), so a never-ending failure to plan, is a perpetual plan of action to fail.


I see videos of people in Gaza attempting to assist in that crisis wearing plastic sandals and shorts. Are you telling me these men could not prepare for a foreseeable disaster and put on a pair of boots, long pants and acquire some gloves? Perhaps not, that would in fact make the “helpless” look a little too prepared. When a real world refugee crisis happens in the US, everyone will not be able to get in their SUV and drive to safety in relative comfort. You will have to get out and walk and you will only have what you can carry on your back. Parents cannot carry everything for their children. Everyone needs a personal back-pack to include the youngest of your walking family members. Instead of the newest electronic game, buy your family members a good quality pack. Let your kids play with fire (under your supervision) so they understand how to use wood generated heat and light in a crisis. Buy everyone in your family a knife and teach them how to sharpen the blade. A good quality canteen is just as important as matches and a knife.


I want to see the refugee photo of an Afghan family with matching packs on their backs, lace-up footwear and full canteens, headed with a plan in mind to safety. It is not meant to be a pretty family picture, it is meant to be documentation that, the family tried to prepare to survive what never seems to end in their dangerous existence: a volatile world, which sadly could quickly come to North America.


Preparedness training sounds much better than refugee training.


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