In October 1780, while American patriots engaged the British in decisive battles for independence, a storm was brewing in the Caribbean. The Great Hurricane of 1780—the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record— tracked a course from the Lesser Antilles to Bermuda, leaving a trail of destruction that touched both Florida and Puerto Rico. Historians estimate that more than 20,000 people died. The “Great Hurricane” was just one of several storms that ravaged the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico that fall. In all, more than 28,000 perished. Nearly two and a half centuries later, we remain vulnerable to natural catastrophes. Modern communication has enhanced our ability to learn of impending disasters, take precautions, and respond to those in need. But today’s news cycle can also divert attention from the continuing consequences of calamities. The torrent of information we now summon and dispense at the touch of a thumb can sweep past as quickly as the storm itself, causing us to forget the real life after-affects for those left in misfortune’s wake.
Court emergency preparedness is not headline news, even on a slow news day. But it is important to assure the public that the courts are doing their part to anticipate and prepare for emergency response to people in need.