Wednesday, April 02, 2008

a night terror

I have this story for want of a better word in my head. I have this problem that needs dissecting, investigating..solving.
The problem is I prefer to survive. I prefer that my child and my family survives. So how do I create a plan that dodges every catastrophe a world in chaos can throw?
I guess I should begin at the beginning . I believe we as a society, a civilization, a species are coming to an ignoble end.
The trick is to be one of the few survivors.
The biggest problem will be what disaster starts the ball rolling.
Here's a list of the probables :
1) global pandemic (be it flu or something closer to Ebola)
3) collapse of the electrical grid
4) catastrophic crop failure

I have never bought into the threat of an oil shortage leading to mayhem. Oil is a luxury product. It isn't necessary for global survival at all. If the worst thing that happens to you is your car wont start it's hardly a threat to your life is it? Half the global population doesn't have cars and they seem to be holding on. I think we can all recycle our plastic bags for a few more years don't you?
Oil is easy and cheap even at it's current prices and we are a lazy group so we all pretend it will be the end of world if oil disappears. Get over it.

So I guess I have to start with pandemic. Pandemic is something to be a little freaked out about though it's really a stretch as a trigger for a global meltdown. Almost all viral/bacterial breakouts burn themselves out naturally with some damn simple precautions. Like wear a mask and wash your hands, isolation and quarantine.
A virus that could wipe us out would have to be respiratory, grotesquely contagious and almost always fatal.
I mean transfer from person to person would have to occur by coughing or sneezing on your neighbour only once or twice. The symptoms would have to be generic enough to mimic a very simple flu that requires no medical intervention for at least three weeks. The virus would have to be able to withstand high heat and cold . The virus would have to take it's sweet time overcoming your defenses because if it acts too quickly it will alert the medical community (SARS) and quarantine will burn it out. It needs time to infect without being hampered .
Then the virus needs to make you so ill you require emergent medical intervention to have any chance to survive.
This is where the terror begins.
The biggest big city Academic hospital has on the whole about fifty true intensive care beds. If you are lucky you may have twenty hospitals in your area that can care for the very sick. So...1000 beds for cities that have on average over a million people. How do we staff those beds? It's not like nurses, doctors and lab techs have secret,special immunity from pandemic.
And here's another issue. If you are a nurse with a family and you knew you would have to go into a room with a guy carrying a usually fatal, wildly contagious virus would you do it?
Would you risk your life and your families?
So let's guess that about 40% percent of the medical hospital staff of 2500 is virus free and willing to go to work. I am ever an optimist.
Let's say that out of the million people in the city 10% are sick in the third week. So 1000 nurses and doctors treating 100,000 people. But we only have the resources to care for 1000 people in the ICU.
The rest will be treated on the wards, the ER, the hallways...the floor. One nurse,one doctor for every 100 patients. No way to isolate or quarantine anymore. Remember the other "normal" sick people still need a bed too!
Who gets the ventilator? Who chooses? And if 100,000 people are sick who is delivering the medical supplies to the hospital? Would a truck driver want to risk their life to go anywhere near the place?
That is just the first wave...the end of the first three weeks. Remember the virus works in waves. Every week now a new wave of a 100,000 will need a hospital. So within three weeks all medical resources will be exhausted.
Now people will be on their own. Quarantine will be the only route to survival. martial law enforced. The military everywhere. Everyone with a gun shooting anyone who comes too close.
How do you get food?
More importantly who is running the machines that provide electricity?
So, you now have no electric which means no running water. The stores have all been looted.
The last stand alone generators are long gone.
You are sitting in the dark. The only food and water you have is what is in the house because to go outside puts you at risk for the virus and getting shot .
No one is in control of the nuclear power stations. There is no electricity to keep the spent fuel rods cold. Only a few of the bravest will attempt to keep the diesel generators running to avoid a catastrophic release of radioactivity.
Tanks filled with deadly chemicals dependent on generators to keep them in their liquid forms begin to fail and clouds of poison gas begin to escape.
So not only do you have to worry about any contact with your fellow man you have to worry that no one is doing their jobs anymore. Those jobs that keep very bad things from escaping their cages.
We all die in our homes.

So, was it the virus that killed us or was it our complacent assumptions about the capacity of our health care system to absorb any crisis? Was it the virus or our pathetic failure to plan for it?
Was it the virus or was it our arrogance in storing deadly poisons irresponsibly, our uncaring assumption that "someone" would look after it all for us?

how will you survive?


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