Blogging slowed this month as I dealt with, among other things, The Great Oklahoma Ice Storm of 2007. (No slight is intended to those of you in Missouri and other states that were hit as well.)
Edgar Rice Burroughs used the phrase "the thin veneer of civilization." Well, let me tell you that thin veneer can be fairly easily cracked when you and all of your neighbors have no electrical power for several days in the ice and cold. I was awake before daylight (with no power) on the day of the ice storm listening to crash after crash of branches and trees covered with ice. My limited experience and prior thinking about disasters had me at the door of a local farm supply store when they opened that morning in the line to purchase generators. I got one, but the people who were there 15 minutes after the store opened probably did not.
One reason this ice storm was so devastating is that many leaves were still in trees providing a platform for ice accumulation. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power for days. You’ve probably read that one of three Oklahoma households were without power at some point and that 12 days later about 12,000 still had no power.
The first questions are about survival; shelter, food and warmth. Soon things like showers and doing laundry become important. Of course, many lawyers were soon asking the question "How do I practice law without electricity?" Even though we were without power for three days, we were lucky. My family overruled my generator plans when good friends offered to take us in. But it is hard to relate the mental stress of dealing with a disaster. You lose focus. You are preoccupied. You forget things. You make mistakes. A huge amount of time is spent looking for things with flashlights in the dark, figuring out how to eat or contacting insurance adjusters. You mourn your lost trees.
We lost two outstanding Tulsa lawyers, Jim Lang and Sharon Corbitt, when a fire started downstairs around their fireplace at their home. I assume that the battery backup of their home security system had been exhausted after so long without power and they had no working smoke detector. They died from smoke inhalation while asleep upstairs. Words cannot express the loss to our bar and our state. These were two great people.
Some of us have now thought about getting those large natural gas-fired generators that start automatically when there is a power loss. But for now, I think the main lesson is to spend some time in your law firm and with your family updating your personal disaster plans to include a response to prolonged power loss. It might make sense for your law firm to invest in alternative sources for power. My prompt trip to purchase a generator wasn’t a result of being smart. It was the result of advance thinking about disasters.