I had lunch with a friend in Old Ellicott City recently. As we waited for our food we looked out the front window of the restaurant at Main Street.
“I did check the weather before I came,” she said.
We were silent for a moment, acknowledging just exactly what that meant.
“Because I don’t know anything about how to respond in a flash flooding situation. And I don’t run fast.”
My friend shared her concern that, despite all the post-flood talks and plans and controversies, there hadn’t been hadn’t been a County-wide drive to educate citizens on how to respond when you find yourself in an emergency flooding situation.
I hadn’t really thought about that. It’s definitely a missing piece. We are living in a time where climate change produces extreme weather patterns which have led to catastrophic flooding. We talk about how to recover after the flood. We talk about how to make changes that can reduce damage produced by future floods.
But where is the public safety campaign for all citizens: “What to do when you are in an emergency flooding situation”?
“Turn around, don’t drown” is not a one-size-fits-all public safety protocol when you are having dinner on Main Street and the water is rising inside the building.
We have to acknowledge that many folks, like my friend, are going to check the weather report before they will commit to a trip to Old Ellicott City. The alternative is (more like me, I’d have to admit) pushing it to the back of one’s mind while thinking, “Yes, that might happen, but it probably won’t happen today.” But is that like deciding not to wear a seatbelt because a traffic accident seems unlikely on any given day?
It doesn’t matter who you think has the best plan. It doesn’t matter if you were Team Kittleman or Team Ball or whether you sided with the Preservationists. This is not about buildings. And it’s definitely not about blame. This is about public education. Our environment has changed and that, in turn, is changing how we live our daily lives. We need some education here.
Yesterday several high school choral groups were scheduled to go caroling in Main Street. My daughter’s school was one of them. As the rain poured down I began to feel uneasy. By noon the message came that the caroling would be canceled. Years ago such a decision might have been made simply because of the unpleasantness of trudging about and singing in wet conditions.
Today it could be a life-changing judgement call, and everyone knows it.
I think it’s well past time to get educated about public safety and flooding. It should be an issue that all sides can agree on.
Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: