Parnell: Alaskans Not Prepared for Disasters

By BECKY BOHRER | August 30, 2011

Individual Alaskans are not prepared for a disaster, Gov. Sean Parnell said Wednesday in urging residents to have enough food and water on hand to sustain themselves for up to a week.

Parnell, who has made disaster readiness a priority of his administration, said he remembers when Alaskans had supplies in their garages and pantries, particularly in the years after the magnitude 9.2 earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 130 people in 1964. Today, Parnell said, many Alaskans are used to going to the store several times a week for food for dinner – a luxury they may not have if a disaster strikes.

During a news conference in Anchorage, in which he was joined by that city’s mayor, Dan Sullivan, and state emergency management director John Madden, the governor emphasized personal responsibility and said everyone should have on hand a week’s worth of food and purified water in case.

He said it’s not so much a matter of if something will happen, but when.

Madden said the state itself in evaluating its own readiness looks at events that would disrupt delivery of essential services: food, water, shelter, power, medicine. He said those could include such things as an earthquake, tsunami or cold weather.

Parnell believes the state is doing pretty well when it comes to its own readiness. He said the Legislature this year appropriated money for generators and water purification. He said plans are also being worked on to establish food caches. He planned to hold a Cabinet meeting on the issue of readiness Friday.

Earlier this year, in announcing he wanted to focus greater attention on readiness, Parnell told key staff that he wanted Alaska to be prepared not only for natural disasters but also for unemployment and “civil unrest” in the Lower 48 “that could lead to an influx here.”

He said Wednesday that unrest could include dissatisfaction in urban areas. He said he hasn’t heard of any such issues so far.

The governor has said he wants Alaskans to be prepared for anything. To that end, public service announcements urging readiness have aired.

Sullivan, who oversees the state’s largest city, said officials are engaged in “constant” drills and exercises. Personally, though, he admits he’s not as prepared as he should be. He noted that complacency can set in as there is distance from a major disaster.

Sullivan said he planned to use the weekend to do some shopping.

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