On Friday, August 30, 2013, President Barack Obama once again proclaimed September to be National Preparedness Month. This year’s theme is “You can be the Hero.” Pointing out that neighbors and friends are often the first on the scene in an emergency, and thus find themselves called upon to act as “hero,” the president urges all Americans to be prepared for that event and that responsibility.
What can you do to prepare to be the hero? The following is a list of measures you can take to become better prepared for the disasters you and your family may face.
• Assess your risks. What hazards does your community face? Do you live in an area that is vulnerable to earthquakes? Perhaps you live in Tornado Alley. Or maybe you live on the Gulf Coast where hurricanes have their own season. Do you live in an area that regularly floods? Don’t forget things like extreme heat, wildfires, lightning strikes, power outages, and man-made risks such as those that come from living near oil refineries. Ask your local emergency management agency for help developing a list.
• Once you have assessed your risks, build a family preparedness plan that includes responding to these potential hazards. For some guidance on putting together a plan, visit www.ready.gov, and click onto “Make a Plan.”
• Put together a go-kit that includes water, non-perishable food, prescription medication, flashlights, batteries, radios, and other items. For information on what to include visit www.ready.gov, and click onto “Build a Kit.”
• Learn about your community’s emergency warning system and signals by asking your community’s emergency management agency.
• Find out about the Emergency Operations Plan at your child’s school, including their plan for communicating with parents, and for parent/child reconciliation.
• Ask about the Emergency Operations Plan at your place of work. If there isn’t one, help develop one.
• Develop some family drills to test your plan, including a meeting place and a plan on communicating with one another if you are apart during an emergency.
• Get involved with your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). A CERT is a group of citizens trained to be the first responders while waiting for firefighters, law enforcement and emergency medical services to arrive. CERT teams are trained in light search and rescue techniques that include removing debris from victims, transport and triage of victims, assessment and basic treatment of injuries, light fire-fighting, and other response measures. If your community doesn’t have a CERT, start one. For information on finding CERTs in your area, and on starting your own, visit http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams.
• Purchase a generator and learn how to use it.
• If you own a business, make sure to develop a Business Continuity Plan as well as an Emergency Response Plan in order to prepare your business for a disaster. For more information on how to plan for emergencies in your business, visit the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety at http://www.disastersafety.org/open-for-business/.
• Structural measures may include adding hail-resistant shingles to your roof, using clips to tie your roof down making it more resistant to strong winds, beefing up your garage doors, adding a safe room to protect your family from tornadoes, and floodproofing your home by elevating the structure and items like hot water heaters and air conditioners. For more information on structural mitigation practices, visit http:www.fema.gov/what-mitigation.
• Make your preparedness planning a family project. Include each member, giving them their own specific assignments, and making a game of it for the children. For information on involving the kids, go to www.ready.gov, and click on “Kids.”
• Don’t forget to include your pets in your preparedness planning.
These are just a few of the things you and your family can do to prepare. Don’t feel pressured to do all of these things in one month; it isn’t possible, and you’ll only get discouraged. Instead, use National Preparedness Month to jumpstart your preparedness efforts. By preparing in advance for the possible hazards you and your family may face, you just may be preparing to be the hero.