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Blocked Exits

Entrapment With No Way Out

By James Donahue

In my younger days when serving as a police reporter and volunteer firefighter I became very conscious of the exits of every building I entered and especially the ones my family and I lived in. After being called to the scenes of various fatal fires where people became trapped in burning buildings the availability of secondary exit routes . . . even if it involved climbing out a window to a porch roof . . . was the first thing I looked for.

Oh that the young people that crowded into the nightclub Kiss, in Santa Maria, Brazil, last month would have had such thoughts of survival in mind before entering such a fire trap. Because of lax local zoning laws and an interest by the nightclub owners to control the patrons by offering only one way in and out of the building, it was a disaster waiting to happen. More than 230 people, many of them college students, perished in their frantic efforts to cram through that single door once the fire broke out.

When a crowd panics, it turns into animal instinct. There would probably have been enough time to get everybody in that nightclub out of that door if people would have maintained cool heads, moved in single file through the door, and if the club bouncers hadn’t been blocking the way out. Unconcerned that the building was burning, the bounders worried that patrons were leaving without paying for their drinks.

As I read about the Santa Maria tragedy, it occurred to me that we have a lot of even larger disaster in the making in all the coastal cities of the world. With rising sea levels and a growing intensity of the hurricanes and typhoons slamming coastlines, it is only a matter of time before more disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina occur. And what happens if a major city like Miami or Los Angeles is hit by a major tsunami?

We have all seen pictures of those crowded highways, with cars backed up for miles and barely moving along those exit routes from coastal cities as people attempt last hour escapes from a looming hurricane. It takes days of preparation and coordination by traffic authorities to open both lanes to accommodate traffic all moving in the same direction . . . out, to help get millions of potential victims evacuated to higher ground.

Mike Adams, editor of Natural News, recently warned that: "If you’re an American living in a city right now, you are metaphorically living inside a crowded nightclub with the exits blocked. Most U.S. cities are impossible for the vast majority of the population to evacuate. Roads are too few and population numbers are too high."

Indeed, Adams is thinking beyond the coastal disasters. He suggests such events as a sudden terrorist attack that hits a nearby nuclear plant, the city’s water supply, or perhaps a solar flare that knocks out the nation’s power supply. People living in crowded conditions as they do in big cities would be struggling to get out of the city to find water, power or just get away from any disastrous situation engulfing them, Adams warns.

"All crowds are inherently dangerous," Adams wrote. "Crowds are insane and have no compassion for individuals."

He suggests a scenario of a sudden shut-off of the water supply being piped over the mountains into Los Angeles as an example of the kind of problem that could develop. "How to you supply emergency water to the nearly four million people in that city? You call FEMA, and then they come (and) screw everything up like they always do."

We believe Adams may have a point although he was a bit unfair to FEMA’s abilities to bring assistance, as well as help that might come from a variety of other directions in the event of a disaster like the shut-off of water and electricity to a city like Los Angeles. Superstorm Sandy left 6.6 million people without power, many without water, all local service stations shut for lack of power to pump gasoline, and thousands of homes and business places in shambles. This situation is slowly being repaired. While residence along the New York and New Jersey coast could not escape their dilemma, a lot of people rushed to their aid. FEMA was among them.

Had it been a massive tsunami that struck the New York and New Jersey coast, as one did in northern Japan in 2012, few would have escaped and the death toll would be high. The Japan event claimed an estimated 19,000 lives.

Indeed, our big cities have strangely been identified as potential death traps in this modern age of terrorism, nuclear bombs and extreme weather events. This is especially true of our coastal cities. The city planners did not foresee these problems in past years as urban sprawl surrounded them like a cancerous growth.

The only resolution to this threat now is to plan for more and wider highways to use in the event that the people in the cities have time to flee a potential disaster, build underground shelters, or start redesigning new cities perhaps like those designed by architect Jacque Fresco, and moving them to higher and more stable ground.