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Letter Re: Any Widespread Flu Will Overwhelm America’s Emergency Medical Services

Dear Mr. Rawles,
As an avid SurvivalBlog reader since ’05, I’ve got to say, the quality of your blog continues to go up and up. Just when I think I can’t possibly absorb anything more, new posts appear that make me think, plan, and act.

Upon your blog’s advice, I have begun taking an EMT [1] class at a local college to expand my medical knowledge base. What the Paramedic teacher said today in class gave me the chills. We were discussing all manner of diseases and then he touched on H1N1, the Swine Flu and its possible affects upon the EMS system. He said that during the SARS [2] crisis, which in our neck of the woods was just a brief scare, the volume of calls into the 911 center went up 10% for several weeks due to everyone that had a cold thinking they had SARS. The EMS [3] crews were advised that if they transported a patient with symptoms consistent with SARS, that they were to disinfect the entire truck with a bleach and water solution from top to bottom and then allow the truck to air dry for three hours
before it was placed back into service. He noted that in our county of around 1/2 million people, there were 20 to 30 ambulances on duty at any one time. He dryly noted that it would not take much of a crisis in public health to bring the EMS system as we know it to it’s knees just based on the increase in call volume,not to mention the ambulance down-time to disinfect the vehicles.

One solution [that the instructor] hypothesized, was a system of 911 triage in a pandemic that said to callers, we will not transport you if you have the flu; you are on your own to get to the hospital. I think this point should be obvious to most SurvivalBlog readers but it dovetails nicely with the pharmacist’s postings regarding securing your anti-viral drugs now.
All the best to you and your family, – B.H.I.

JWR Adds: For anyone that missed my May 1st post about getting ready for an influenza panic, this portion bears repeating:

I recommend that SurvivalBlog readers seriously think through the implications of successive waves of Mexican Flu sweeping around the globe for the next three years. From what we’ve already seen of its virulence after the normal “cold and flu season”, then the next couple of winters could bring very high rates of infection and overwhelm the healthcare system. Please take the time to watch Dr. Henry Niman of Recombinomics discussing”Swine” flu [4]. His projections are disturbing, to say the least! Think this through folks, on a macro scale: How would a pandemic impact your work? Commuting? Grocery shopping? Church activities? School? (If you are not yet homeschooling, then you should plan on it!) Your vacation plans? Summer camp? Family holiday get-togethers? Sports and cultural events? These implications are enormous. As SurvivalBlog readers, you are already accustomed to contemplating abstractions at this level and getting “ahead of the power curve.” You also likely have the benefit of superior training and a deep larder. And, hopefully, many of you took my advice three years ago, and began to develop home-based businesses. (Mail order businesses will undoubtedly flourish, as people shun face-to-face sales.)

There are no guarantees, but you have a better chance of getting through this unscathed than most of your neighbors. Hopefully, all of you read the backgrounder on family flu preparedness [5], that I’ve had posted here are SurvivalBlog for more than three years. But if not… Now is time to make the requisite adjustments to your daily routine and to top off your logistics:

If you wait too long, then those supplies will either be non-existent, or exorbitantly priced. By the time most of the sheeple [13] think this through (or have it explained to them by the talking heads on the Idiot Box), you will have long since “topped off” your preps. But not if you hesitate. As my friend Bob in Tennessee is fond of saying: “Panic now, and avoid the rush.”

Mark my words: A true pandemic will disrupt supply chains, starting with relatively exotic items (such as antivirals), but eventually working down to basic commodities. Be ready.