News | Sept. 4, 2020

Disasters Don’t Wait – get prepared during National Preparedness Month

By Eric Crognale, Fire Inspector DLA Installation Management Richmond

National Preparedness Month is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. As our nation continues to respond to COVID-19, there is no better time to be involved than this September.

This year’s theme is "Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today." The Defense Logistics Agency Richmond Fire and Emergency Services team is here to help you prepare for possible disasters while at work and at home. Do you have your emergency plans ready? Have you discussed them with the other members of your household? If not, don’t worry, because now is an excellent time to start. While no one can prepare for every possible emergency, it is not only possible, but easy to prepare for a broad range of emergencies. The last thing you want is to have to come up with a plan as the emergency is happening.

Communication

Know how you are going to receive your emergency information. On Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, we use a combination of digital methods (AtHoc, e-mail, wireless alerts) and analog methods (Mass Notification Systems, Big Voice, face-to-face). At home, learn which methods your city or county uses to alert its citizens to potential disasters.

At the Federal level, the Emergency Alert System is a national public warning system that allows the President to address the American people within 10 minutes during a national emergency. The alerts are sent through broadcasters, satellite digital audio services, direct broadcast satellite providers, cable television systems and wireless cable systems. The National Weather Service also provides a nationwide Weather Radio All-Hazards that broadcasts official weather service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours- a-day, 7 days-a-week. Your smartphone or wireless device may also provide wireless emergency alerts, if you have the feature enabled. As part of your communications preparedness, check that you have extra batteries and alternate methods to charge your portable electronics if the power goes out to your home or office.

Making your plan

When making your plan, consider your own specific needs. At work, know your building’s evacuation routes, assembly points, and shelter-in-place areas, if your building has them. Consider whether your coworkers will need assistance during an emergency: do people with special needs have assigned helpers for emergencies? Are there alternates for when those helpers are absent?

At home, consider the needs of your household: older or infirm relatives, and young children who might need assistance in evacuating. Consider keeping all your family’s needed medications in a portable container that can be grabbed quickly. Does your family have a designated gathering point, and is each member of the household aware of it? The Department of Homeland Security recommends keeping at least three gallons of water and three days worth of food for each person in your household. Disease outbreaks, like severe weather, may require sheltering in place for an extended period, so consider stocking up on supplies for a period of a week or more. Other considerations, if you are able, include:

  • Designating a vehicle that can carry all members of your household plus supplies, and keeping it fueled up
  • Having enough cash on hand to cover up to $2,000 worth of expenses
    • A credit card specifically for emergency use: hotel stays, airfare, etc.
  • Dietary needs of your household
    • A supply of dry formula for infants and toddlers, plus enough bottled water to mix it with
    • Pets, being able to transport and feed them for a few days
  • Disability equipment such as wheelchairs or walkers, oxygen tanks, and so forth
  • Copies of important documents such as insurance information, doctor’s office contacts, medication lists and special needs
    • Store the originals in a fireproof, waterproof safe or lockbox
  • A home generator that can power at least your home’s heating and cooling system, and water heater.
    • If you can afford it, consider one that can also power your refrigerator/freezer, as well as charging your portable electronic devices.
    • If you are unable to connect to natural gas, have enough fuel on hand to power your generator for three days, and rotate the fuel supply every six months at a minimum           

Pandemic preparedness

The current coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we prepare for emergencies. We now must consider how we might have to isolate ourselves from our families and neighbors during a crisis. If you can, have a plan to quarantine within your home, and how your family will handle food and cleaning during that time. Designate a room and a bathroom for yourself separate from your family members while you isolate and clean it frequently. Many people are adding cleaning supplies to their readiness kits for the first time. If your kit already has cleaning supplies, check the expiration dates to rotate out items that have expired or will expire soon. Know who to contact at your workplace when you are sick and have a plan in place to telework or take leave.           

Summary

  • Start today and involve the members of your household in planning
  • Know how you are going to receive and send emergency information
  • Consider your own specific needs
  • Communicate your plan with your household
  • Be prepared to travel or to shelter in place
  • Gather enough supplies for at least three days
  • Rotate supplies regularly to avoid expired items
  • Plan to quarantine if you become sick

For additional information on these and other fire safety-related topics, please contact the DLA Richmond Fire and Emergency Services Fire Prevention Office at (804) 279-6782. You can also e-mail us at dscr.fireprevention@dla.mil to schedule a meeting through Skype for us to help you build your readiness plan.