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March 2003
Are You Prepared?
By John Paul Galles

    With the end of the Cold War and the falling of the Berlin Wall, tensions eased and we became less worried about atomic bombs being hurled east and west by the United States and the Soviet Union. Actually, we became desensitized to all the bomb scenarios that suggested no one would survive anyway, so preparing seemed to be a total waste of time.
      However, those who can remember the 1950s can recall the public school drills when we were marched out of our classrooms into the hallways, away from the windows that were sure to shatter when the bombs would fall and the next world war would begin. We were instructed to line up three-deep against the lockers with our arms folded and heads down. On the way home from school, I would walk past the home of someone that had actually built a bomb shelter deep into the hill alongside his house. I never saw the inside, but brochures that were distributed around that time presented diagrams of their construction and lists of provisions that were to be kept inside the shelters for an extended stay until the “all clear” was signaled. Battery-operated transistor radios were the original carry-around boom boxes, but they also delivered up-to-date news and information and emergency broadcast signals.

      In the early ’60s, we were substantially alarmed by the Cuban missile crisis. Having missiles so close was particularly frightening with all that we had learned to fear about nuclear weapons. But after that and while we were mired in the war in Vietnam, the buildup of nuclear weapons created such scenarios of mass destruction that we pretty much gave up thinking of survival.

      As a result of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the recurring anthrax attacks and growing threats from terrorist groups, we are realizing that there are evidently levels of “mass” destruction. One vial of a chemical substance may kill thousands or millions of people, but not all. Once again, it is imperative for us to take steps to improve our safety and prepare for emergencies and terrorist events. Only this time, it may not be from bombs, rockets or missiles. The potential for chemical and biological warfare seems to have no apparent limits. It is difficult to prepare for an enemy that has very few known forms and so many unknown forms. But try we must. At least we should be compelled to prepare for those types of attacks we can imagine.

     One good source for preparedness is the American Red Cross. They have published a “Business & Industry Guide…Preparing Your Business for the Unthinkable.” It is available on their Web site, It answers the question, “What can I do?” It encourages thinking about disasters and creating a disaster plan. It offers suggestions on how to develop a thorough plan and reduce the impact of potential damage. It also suggests ways to protect our employees, our customers and our businesses.

     The Red Cross also recommends the Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry that was developed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

      When we have finished examining all the possible disaster scenarios and we have created all our plans and stocked all the supplies that we may need, then we need to return to our business activities and work every day to grow and expand our operations to protect our livelihoods and our futures. Duct tape and plastic sheets can only protect us for a limited time. We need to find more substantial measures to help us ease the tension, bridge the economic gaps and renew some sense of calm in our everyday lives. Threats of war and retaliation may be appropriate with the potential weapons being created and the activities being conducted. Once they have been addressed, we must seek new ways of engagement that promote peace.

      American freedom and liberty do not come without costs. We cannot rely solely on our government to protect us from terrorist harm; we must also rely on ourselves and each other. We must continue to be watchful and pursue our dreams. We cannot let our American way of life be disrupted. It is too precious and important.

      We must all do our part to keep America safe and secure.  Find out what you, your family and your business can do in your neighborhood and in this community to protect and preserve our freedoms!

John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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