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Dr Manny's Notes

Earthquake Proves NYC Is Not Prepared for Natural Disasters

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Dr. Manny Alvarez

Wake up, New York, we’re not ready for a hurricane. If the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia Tuesday was any indication, we’ve got our work cut out for us in preparing for any future natural disasters.

And by “future,” I mean possibly as early as this weekend.

Though we hardly felt any movement here in the city of New York as a result of the earthquake, panic seemed to overtake a lot of people, as indicated by various news programs and social networking sites.

A single tremor was enough to cause mass confusion, building evacuations and cell phone service outages across the city.

So, imagine with me, what will happen if we get blindsided this weekend by Hurricane Irene, which appears to have the potential of becoming a major storm? Currently, the hurricane is a category 3 and located in the Bahamas, but weather forecasters predict it will strengthen over the next couple day as it travels up the East Coast of the United States.

Not only that, but its path may be directly in line with New York City.

So, I ask, are we ready for this possibility, New York?

This region, more than any other, relies on electrical power. From high rise apartment buildings, to business computers, to the subway system, a massive power outage caused by a hurricane will have a significant impact on people’s lives.

Imagine if you were sick or paralyzed, and stuck on a building’s 35th floor without elevator service for days. Or, simply picture the isolation caused by television and cellphone outages. Ask yourself, where are your flashlights? Your radio? How will you keep up to date with important emergency information if the storm knocks out electrical services?

In order to prepare for this hurricane, ultimately we have to think not of the earthquake, which caused no lasting damage, but rather everything that went wrong during this past winter’s big snowstorm.

People were unable to leave their apartments, and emergency vehicles were essentially unable to move around on the streets. We were woefully under-prepared, and most city workers had to play catch up to fix the significant problems that resulted from the storm.

In this case, we have had ample warning. Hurricane Irene has been brewing for quite some time now, and meteorologists across the country have made it clear that this storm is threatening to strike the United States.

While we here in the Northeast tend to think of hurricanes as more of a Southern problem (much like the East Coast as a whole considers earthquakes to be a West Coast problem), there have been reports that Irene could be in line with both Washington D.C. and New York.

Whether the storm ultimately hits us or not, I urge city officials, emergency workers and the public at large to read up on hurricane safety guidelines. Because, based on Tuesday, I think we all need a refresher on how to handle natural disasters.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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