NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
This year’s National Preparedness Month theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”
Most every day, a person needs look no further than their television to see haunting images of destruction from both manmade and natural events. Whether the danger comes from civil disturbances, involving clashes of individual ideologies, or natural events, such as the recent historic flooding in Houston, the era of the 24-hour news cycle has taught us that life can change in an instant. The reality that we had become accustomed to can quickly be replaced by uncertainty and a constantly-evolving threat stream, due to forces beyond our control. When this happens, the difference between life and death may well hinge upon an individual’s resiliency, adaptability, and level of preparedness.
Since its inception in 2004, National Preparedness Month is observed each September in the U.S. September was chosen because the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001 highlighted the importance of being prepared. September was also chosen because it contains the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, commonly referred to as FEMA, hosts the Ready.gov site that employs four basic pillars of preparedness that everyone can easily accomplish: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed, and Get Involved.
Get a Kit: When deciding on what to put in your kit of emergency supplies, it is recommended that you develop two kits: one with items needed if you are going to stay in place and a smaller, lighter version that you will need if you have to quickly leave the area. Some common items that should be found in your basic kit include: at least one gallon of water per day, per person; at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food; a battery-powered radio and flashlight (along with plenty of extra batteries); a first aid kit; a whistle and signal mirror; a multi-tool that includes pliers, a knife, a can opener, etc.; duct tape; zip ties; garbage bags; filter masks (as many emergency situations may involve contaminants in the air); and a supply of any life-sustaining personal medications that are needed.
The above list contains a few recommended items, but is by no means all inclusive. Each individual’s emergency kit should be tailored to their specific needs.
Make a Plan: When tailoring a plan for yourself and your family, it is recommended (much like your emergency kits) that you develop two plans: one for sheltering in place and one for getting out of the area. Ensure that your escape plan has several destinations and options for travel, as some routes may become blocked and unavailable for certain means of transportation.
“Have evacuation plans from your residence and your neighborhood. Have at least two meeting places, one within a few hundred yards and another a few miles away. You may even want an out-of-area meeting place for a wide-scale evacuation (such as the Three Mile Island incident in 1979),” said Wayne Rhodes, Defense Distribution Susquehanna Installation Emergency Manager.
Most importantly, ensure that you have redundancy built in to your methods of communication, as your primary method will likely fail at some point.
“Have an out-of-area contact who can take calls and relay messages. You and your family may be able to send texts and make calls out of the immediate area easier than making calls to each other,” added Rhodes.
Be Informed: Being informed involves learning about each type of threat, whether it be a flood, a hurricane, a biological, chemical or nuclear event, or an active shooter or act of terrorism. Each type of emergency has its own unique responses that will guide your actions. Studying past events and courses of action will help you prepare for your response once the event is upon you. It is likely that information will be in short supply once an event happens. It will be hard to get reliable updates in the critical first minutes of a crisis. During that time you will have to rely on your knowledge base and your level of preparedness to increase your chances of survival.
Get Involved: Once you have built your emergency kits, formulated your plans to shelter in place or escape the area, and are confident that you know about most of the types of threats, you can share your knowledge and help prepare your community. Disaster response and recovery efforts can be amplified when members of a community are operating on the same page with a similar mindset. You may wish to consider joining a group such as Citizen Corps (www.citizenscorps.gov), a program that falls under the Department of Homeland Security that provides training for the population of the United States to assist in the recovery after a disaster or terrorist attack.
No matter whether you join a formal or informal group, or no group at all, sharing knowledge and helping prepare your neighbors and community will also better prepare you.
While most people will never need to activate their emergency plans, it is better to have a plan and not need it, then need a plan and not have one.
The FEMA Ready campaign, and the correlating public education outreach campaign, disseminates information to help the general public prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
You can find more information on how to stay informed, make a plan, build a kit, and get involved at: https://www.ready.gov/september.