Amanda Ripley

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“We Were Prepared.” The Wisdom of Boy Scouts

13th Jun 2008 posted in Disaster Behavior

Four boys died when a tornado ripped through their camp in western Iowa this week. It was a terrible loss. But it was also an example of how reasonable acts of preparation can save lives.

The Boy Scouts take great pride in being prepared. It isn’t a sign of weakness or neurosis—the way preparedness is viewed in much of adult land. It is a sign of strength. And here is what it looks like:

On Tuesday, the Scouts held an emergency preparedness drill. On Wednesday, the storm rolled in. When a Scout leader spotted a funnel cloud churning toward the camp, he flipped on a siren, and the boys began to run for shelter. Unfortunately, as is often the case with tornadoes, they only had a few seconds of warning, and many boys only had time to run under picnic tables before the tornado hit.

Afterwards, the boys and men who were not hurt—and even some who were—immediately took action. They wrapped their shirts around wounds and applied gauze and ran for help.

“If it had to happen, it was good that it happened at a Boy Scouts camp,” one boy named Ethan later told NBC. “We were prepared. We knew that we had to place tourniquets on wounds that were bleeding too much. We had first Aid kits. We had everything. We knew about this. We knew how to do it. If it had happened anywhere else, there wouldn’t be that many people who knew.”