So if you read the title of this post then answered "me", you are absolutely correct.
Much like Hurricane Katrina, a disaster that affects an entire region means that A LOT of people will be left to fend for themselves. There will be emergency workers, of course, but they (the ones who aren't initially killed or injured by the disaster) will be few and far between. Worse, they won't have the things most needed to help people right after a disaster (like roads to drive on, bridges to cross, hospital ERs to treat blunt-force or crush injuries, medications, quantities of water or food for the unprepared, etc).
So where does this leave you? As a friend of mine from Georgia says, "y'all best be gettin' prepared 'cause there's surely a disaster fixin to happen sometime".
Here's what you need to be prepared for:
- No ATM machines. Do you have cash on hand? Cash may not be worth much during a disaster but it is better than being penniless.
- No grocery stores open. Either they will be completely destroyed or the looters will get to them. Either way you need food on hand for at least a month if not longer.
- No water coming out of the faucet. Especially during an earthquake, water pipes will break leaving you with no water to drink, clean with, or bathe in. How will you prepare for this?
- No electricity to your home. Our lives revolve around electricity. I'm guessing that most young people under 30 have zero experience living without electricity and many of these people (and oldsters as well) will be looking at their blank screens wondering what to do now.
- No gas to your home. Like water pipes, gas pipes also break during disasters which means no heat for your home, no gas for your stove, and, immediately after a disaster, that rotten egg smell could mean a secondary disaster could happen in the form of fires.
- No sewer services. Maybe. You can still flush a toilet after a disaster if #1 the structure is still standing, #2 you don't mind wasting precious water, and #3 the pipes haven't broken and sewage is now flooding your yard. During a disaster, alternate sewage disposal methods can decrease the likelihood of spreading disease. Plus remember to keep your hands clean.
- No garbage service. Most people don't give garbage much of a thought. You set your can by the side of the road each week and your garbage is magically taken away. When left to pile up, however, things can go from gross to dangerous quickly (rats and other disease spreading creatures love a nice pile of garbage).
- No entertainment. I don't know a single person who can go for days on end without some form of entertainment ranging from TV to a meal at a restaurant to Facebooking friends to a trip to Starbucks, etc.
- No phone service. 911 will probably be down, land lines will probably be down, and cell phones may work (as long as you have a charged phone and as long as the cell towers are still standing and as long as you can get through with thousands of others trying to make calls too), Or you may be left totally incommunicado.
- No house. If your house is still standing and structurally sound after an earthquake, you will indeed be fortunate. If it falls down during the disaster, where will you live/sleep/eat?
- No roads/bridges/overpasses/underpasses. Image you have to drive from one end of your county/city/state and all of the roads have been destroyed. How would you traverse what used to be a half hour trip by car when you can't drive?
- No medical services. After the Haiti earthquake, medical care was scarce to nonexistent for a while. And while you may be able to use some stockpiled medicine and a comprehensive first aid kit to treat minor maladies, what will you do when your ten year old has a fracture with the bone sticking out through his skin? For more on the after affects of the Haiti disaster and medical care, read this.
- No police services. Many people can barely keep it together in a civilized society with strong social mores and legal penalties for bad behavior. Actually, there's quite a few who can't behave, just watch the evening news each day. So what will you do when there are no police to come to your rescue and marauders decide that you look well fed and have a nice house still standing and they want what you have?
- What will you do with your dead? There won't be anyone to come and take them away like what happens now when a loved one passes.
- What will you do for an income? Your work will probably come to a screeching halt as will your income. Now what?
- What if the disaster strikes at a particularly bad time or to particularly vulnerable people? The dead of winter, the scorching days of summer, family members who have chronic/serious medical needs... A disaster is bad enough if you are hale, hearty, and whole afterwards. It's much worse for those who aren't.
These are just the high points. Basically everything you do on a daily basis will be disrupted. The least/most/only thing you can do is prepare ahead of time and hope for the best.