Bad Things Happen in Philly. Here’s How to Stay Safe

Marion Leary
3 min readJul 17, 2023

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By Marion Leary and Jen Leary

Philadelphia — and, in turn, Philadelphians, have been going through it the last few years. The COVID-19 pandemic, opioid epidemic, and gun violence crisis notwithstanding, the city has been plagued with one disaster after another — and we are not talking about Super Bowl, World Series, and championship losses.

We are talking about weather events such as the flash flooding that occurred this past week in Bucks County and the flooding of I-676 and surrounding areas due to tropical storm Ida two years ago. We are talking about tornados, the latex spill that tainted the Delaware River and subsequently our drinking water, the code red air quality that floated down from the wildfires happening to our neighbors to the north, and the recent collapse of I-95 North due to a tanker truck fire. It’s a lot for any city, let alone one already considered underdogs, overlooked, under-resourced, and hyper-criticized.

Some of these environmental disasters will only worsen and become more frequent due to climate change, but some are accidents like the tanker truck fire and the latex spill that unfortunately just happen. Though we can not control the wildfires to our north or the collapse of our roadways, there are things we can control — the preparedness and safety of ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.

For Philadelphians to thrive, we must be prepared for what’s to come and know how to respond, as it seems we can no longer go a week without an emergency occuring. Just yesterday there was a tornado warning and devistating flash flood. Last month it was a boil water advisory for parts of West Philadelphia due to a pumping failure. So, here are some tips for staying safe.

For flooding and risk of flash floods, get to higher ground. Avoid roads that have begun to flood as it is difficult to determine how deep the water level is, especially at night. Even as little as six inches of water can reach the bottom of most passenger vehicles.

For a drinking water emergency, such as a latex spill or pump failure, their are ways to mitigate a water shortage; experts suggest storing one gallon of water per person (and pet) per household to last you for several days.

There are other emergency supplies you should consider having on hand besides water, including batteries, battery-powered lanterns or flashlights, non-perishables, and extra food for pets.

For your car, consider purchasing a Go Kit that includes regularly rotated bottles of water and non-perishable snacks, a first aid kit, warming blanket, flashlight, and batteries, and a phone charger.

In addition to emergency supplies, there are other things you can do when disasters strike. While Philadelphia was under an air quality alert advisory, we were also battling another junkyard fire. These seem to happen more and more regularly, and it is recommended that when they do, you close all of your windows, brake out your air purifiers, and limit outside exposure for yourself and your pets. If you must go outside, consider donning one of those “covid” masks, which can be good to use not only when the air quality is down due to everyday pollutants such as from junkyard fire but when the pollen count is up.

A good resource overall is the citywide Ready Philadelphia system. You can sign up to stay updated on the latest emergency information and alerts specific to our region.

A final piece of expert advice, if the Schyukill River floods again, it is highly recommended that you not swim in the runoff, but if you do, make sure your tetanus shot is up to date! This is good advice, irrespective of swimming in the Schuylkill.

Bad things, such as the aforementioned natural and human-made disasters, will continue to happen in Philly and elsewhere. But Philly is a scrappy city that never stays down long. So let’s all take a collective clean breath and be prepared for the next thing to come.

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Marion Leary is a doctorally-prepared nurse and public health practitioner. Jen Leary is a firefighter with a degree in emergency preparedness and strategic communications.

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Marion Leary

Science geek. Passionate abt Philly, resuscitation, social media, scicomm, innovation, art, & helping others. http://marionleary.strikingly.com