The state line separating Virginia and West Virginia was deluged recently causing heavy flooding.

The region which covers Covington, Virginia along with White Sulphur, Lewisburg, and Rainelle — all located in West Virginia — was hit by flooding unmatched since 1985. The West Virginia villages took the brunt of the disaster that followed when about 9 inches of rainfall came in one day.

The disaster could be a teachable event.

The Best and Worst In Us

Disasters like the flooding often draw out the best — and worst — in people.

Stories of near-heroic proportions are starting to come out of the water soaked mountains. Accounts of lesser, but no less important, stories such as neighbor helping neighbor are also starting to appear. Stories of generosity are emerging from West Virginia where the death toll continued to rise.

Unfortunately, events like this also bring out the worst of human nature including criminals who prey on the generous character of others by soliciting, and keeping, donations intended to help the victims.

The instantaneous communication that makes it possible to learn about disasters’ victims also make it possible to steal quicker. But theft isn’t the only offense.

The Bath Physician’s Group in Hot Springs, Virginia, is one example. Notwithstanding the furious storm and the plausibility of severe injuries, the hospital clinic closed when it was needed. Two of the doctors, along with a Nurse Practioner or two, were impacted by the flooding in neighboring Alleghany County and West Virginia and couldn’t get into the clinic.

Management 101 teaches something that even college freshman studying business would understand: a crisis management plan would have been able to provide guidance, policies, and procedures

Jerry Nelson is an American freelance writer and photojournalist and is always interested in discussing future work opportunities. Email him at and join the million-or-so who follow him on Twitter @ Journey_America.

What if the building was hit with electrical and computer outages? What if there had been physical damage to the clinic? It appears that the staff turned into everyman-for-himself –and some decided to stay home. Most of the medical staff could have made it into work without any problem — one of the hospitalisists lives a block from the hospital and could’ve walked to work

The clinic should have remained open despite the storm. One health care provider and one nurse were the most that would have been needed.

Crisis time for many and the clinic closes.

The Highland Medical Clinic, a facility without the staffing levels of Bath Community Hospital and as medically advanced remained open throughout the disaster. HMC personified the commitment to delivering health care services while the Bath Physicians Group Clinic has a $20 million building — and no commitment.

Like a Good Neighbor

While the region woke to the aftermath of the storm, many lacked power or running water. With trees down on the mountainous highways, many were left without transportation. Individuals and families will continue to face enormous emotional and physical challenges, but at least they may rely on the kindness of friends and strangers to temper the blow.

While there is a mentality that disasters provide selfishness and brutal survival-of-the-fittest, the reality is that people coping with diaster are quite altruistic.

That is what is already being seen in places worst hit by the floodwaters.

Throughout the region, people have been checking on sick and elderly neighbors; sharing food and information and supporting each other.

There is an extensive history of cooperation in the face of crisis and disaster. New Yorkers tend to think back on the immediate aftermath of 9/11 as a time of solidarity, and the same is true following major earthquakes or tsunamis globally.

We are hard-wired to operate that way. Our minds are programmed so that our stress systems can be alleviated by social support. In response to the calming words — or the soft touch of a loved one — the bonding hormone oxytocin lowers the level of stress hormones. We begin to learn this reaction in infancy from our parents. As we age, our stress systems remain linked to the presence of others who provide comfort and relief.

During emergencies, our social networks decide our destinies. The more attachments we have with others, the more apt we are to persevere: not just physically but emotionally. It is when we encounter the troublesome times that our real nature shows itself — we’re in this together.

While no one desires to meet disaster, it can bring wonderful gifts — but only if we value each other.