RIDGWAY – Oak Norton, a former intelligence officer for the U.S. Army and Air Force, discussed the importance of emergency preparation Saturday morning to kick off the Third Annual Preparedness Fair at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Ridgway.
"It's wonderful to see that people are here [Saturday] because that proves [they're] not clueless as to what can take place," Norton said. "In Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, we only had an opportunity to do the job once and it had to be done correctly, otherwise lives would be lost and a lot of suffering would take place.
"You couldn't call for inventory or equipment; you had to have it with you; therefore, I saw a great need."
In a world with natural disasters such as the recent earthquake and tsunami that plagued Japan, Norton declared Saturday that it's no longer a possibility or a probability, "it's a sure thing that we're going to stand in need of neutral support."
"To be prepared, if we fail to plan then we plan to fail, and I have seen it-- there is a great need that lies over this country and you can attack it from any angle that you desire but we do have an enemy-- it's within-- and it's called procrastination," Norton said. "That is the greatest enemy that we have; 'I'll do it tomorrow, I'll do it next week for sure.' Next week comes and again 'we've got to do it-- next week.'
"The day will come when mothers and fathers will be faced with challenges and they'll say, 'why couldn't we have done it?' and they'll be so sorry because now the whole family will have been afflicted."
With many people lacking a plan for protection, Norton said there are a number of areas to be concerned with.
"When the riot happened in Baltimore in 1969, I was there," Norton said. "Governor Rockefeller understood the need to contemplate the possibility of this happening in New York City and so he commissioned a group of people and it was their job to come up with a scenario that would bring about riots and so forth.
"With riots, you have gang activity and even gangs moving into small towns and taking over-- and it's because they're organized, we're not. Therefore, we are the ones that for a period of time, could suffer extensively if a gang gets into Ridgway-- they could do that because it's a controlling tactic."
What the group theorized was that there would be a need for food and water in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis.
"Tankers hauling gasoline would be in jeopardy, there would be shootings like years ago when coal miners were delivering and picking up coal, they were being shot at," Norton said. "Now with no groceries on the shelves and no gasoline coming in, no mother and no father can stand to see their kids go hungry or thirsty. So they'll go door-to-door and ask for assistance, and they'll ask nicely, but they'll return empty-handed.
"Then they'll return with something to persuade you to share your items, and it just escalates and it was tragic what was taking place there. Hunger can be a driving force to people just losing it."
When facing natural disasters and instances in which preparation is vital, Norton said many times individuals are forced to move into a shelter area.
"Many times you're moved into a shelter and many things take place there, many things," Norton said. "There is an untold story on [Hurricane] Katrina as to what happened in the dome and I've received intel bulletins and they've been very revealing as to what takes place when it's dark.
"I've always had to take two flashlights with me. That's just one small part of an entire plan of action that you should have. It's important that it's not in your 'to be done' jobs' You need a plan which involves a checklist-- you need to plan and you need to re-plan."