Personal preparedness and common sense will get you through most things in life, and the #PopeInPhilly!
Everywhere I go I overhear people talking about the Pope coming to town; annoyed about road closures, frustrated about highway closures, confused about where to park their cars and wondering if they’ll be allowed on their own balconies! Almost every tweet is more speculation, more maps; walking maps, bike maps and my personal favorite, the map of lava, zombies & pterodactyls! If you live in or around the “Pope Zone” people are talking about treating this like a snowstorm or severe weather event. The Mayor even told folks at a Pope press briefing to stock up on milk and bread! Is all of this just a little bit crazy? You can decide that for yourself.
Here is what I know for sure; besides the fact that there will be no pterodactyls (thanks a lot PPD!), I know that locally, we have the best of the best working on this (s/o City of Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, Philadelphia Fire Department, Philadelphia Police Department, to name a few), we’ve known about the Pope coming to town for some time now. Even before we had confirmed information about which roads, highways and bridges would be closed, even before we had the maps with the confirmed boundaries and zones and inner zones, we knew it was going to be bigger than anything Philly has ever seen before, even before we were told an estimated 1-million pilgrims could potentially converge on the city in thousands of busses, we knew. So there has been more than enough time to prepare and plan accordingly. And with a little less than a month left, there is no time like the present!
Coincidentally, September is National Preparedness Month. And preparedness is everyone’s responsibility, during an emergency or when the Pope comes to visit! Everyone should have a fire escape plan, an emergency plan, an emergency kit, a go kit and you should be talking about and practicing your plans regularly with your family members (pets included)! So if you are planning on staying in Philly that weekend, why not use it as good practice, it is preparedness month after all!
One of my favorite saying is as follows: better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. No truer words have ever been spoken (Although, this is not meant to encourage you all to become hoarders-fire hazard)! Being the emergency response geek that I am (and the person who posts, tweets and provides all the disaster preparedness and fire safety content for Red Paw Emergency Relief Team), I try to practice what I preach. For instance, I check my smoke alarms and emergency kit regularly. I am constantly discussing our family’s fire escape plan and making the dogs practice! I have the Red Cross’ Pet First Aid app on my phone so I know where all the closest pet friendly hotels are should we ever need to evacuate our home, our neighbors know how many pets we have and our phone numbers should something happen while we are out. I could go on and on! But, I also make it a point to be personally prepared. I know that at any moment I could be called to a disaster response, that response could be an hour or it could be three days! So, in my backpack at all times I have my computer fully charged, I have my wireless device fully charged, I have my phone charger case fully charged. I get migraines, so I carry migraine medicine, I get cranky when I’m hungry so I carry protein bars, I get even crankier when I need coffee, so I carry bottled ready to drink Starbucks. Priorities!:) My point being, that I know what I need to be personally prepared. Personal preparedness!
This all seems so obvious, right? One would think, but, what inspired me to write this blog was something else Mayor Nutter said at one of his Pope briefings; residents can drive their cars on certain streets, but at some point you are going to have to make a decision, because a zillion people will be on those streets as well. Ok, he didn’t say a zillion, but you get my point. Common sense! If you live in Philly during football season, you know that during home games it’s probably not a good idea to drive south on Broad St. You also know that Old City in the summertime is filled with bus loads of class trips and tourists, and that going to the Starbucks at 3rd & Arch to get a latte could take 45 minutes easy (a mistake I’ve made many times)! We know these things, just like we all know what a challenge it’s going to become during Pope weekend moving about this city. More importantly, what a challenge it’s going to be for emergency response vehicles and other necessary entities to move around the city! Let’s not make it worse. I mean really, what could you possibly need to do in “the zone” that weekend that would require you to drive along side a zillion people?! I drive around Philly A LOT, on a normal day any more, regardless of rush hour, it could take an hour to get from South Philly to North Philly, so just imagine what the response time to a disaster will be with an extra million or so people in town! Let’s just say I will have plenty of snacks and caffeinated beverages with me at all times!
So therefore, my humble advice, as someone who runs an emergency response organization in Philly; Be proud of what is about to occur here, for the entire world to see, and, if you are coming to town for the Pope, or you live here, plan accordingly, prepare now, use your God given common sense and have a little faith!