Our View: Who’s Responsible?


It’s a familiar and predictable refrain after storms. The lights go out and I need a warm place to shelter from the storm. Who’s responsible? I need a hot meal and a shower, and a place for my pet. I can’t tell my relatives I’m safe because my cell phone stopped working. Who’s responsible?

Let’s add a new one. A flooded road is keeping me from accessing my home. Who’s responsible?

We are. All of us.

Once fundamental character traits of Cape Cod residents, self-reliance and self-responsibility seem to be fading a bit. While we routinely pitch in to help neighbors in trouble, we sometimes forget to plan for our own potential emergencies. Don’t misunderstand: we know that the most vulnerable people in our community will always need help, and there are mechanisms in place to provide it, like outreach programs from police, fire and the council on aging, and the county system of providing regional emergency shelters. These programs are essential.

But if we’re able, it’s up to each one of us to prepare for our own safety and wellbeing during storms. That starts with having a family disaster plan, and knowing whether our homes — and the accessways to them — are vulnerable to flooding.

The town can, and should, take more precautions to discourage people from driving through storm waters in places that frequently flood, like Little Beach. But ultimately it’s up to the residents there to know when flooding is likely to happen and to either evacuate or shelter in place and keep from driving through flooded roads. Doing so needlessly puts rescuers in harm’s way and is also a waste of time and money.

Whether we live in a flood zone or anywhere else on Cape Cod, we need to reconcile ourselves to the fact that storms are becoming more frequent and severe, and their impacts — like power and cell phone outages — can be significant problems in our daily lives. It comes down to knowing how to keep ourselves safe and well during emergencies.

And for that, we’re all responsible.