Today we are halfway through hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 1. So far, this year is shaping up to be much milder than 2017, other than Hawaii’s brush with Lane last week.
That does not mean we should let our guard down, however. And the flooding that happened in Mannington in Marion County less than a month before Harvey illustrates that these types of disasters do hit close to home.
When one does, will you be ready?
That’s the hope of Monongalia County Health Department’s Threat Preparedness program. We’re promoting National Preparedness Month, which offers a wellspring of useful information via the website Ready.gov.
And it doesn’t even have to be a disaster. You’ve probably lost power in your home. What did you do? Did you have enough flashlights so you could make your way around the house? And even though you knew the power would come back on eventually, did you wonder if it would be out long enough to disrupt your plans? Would your food last in the refrigerator? How would you get ready for work without power?
Those situations make you realize you want to be better prepared in the future.
Ready.gov has divided September into four main points of emphasis. The first one—make and practice your plan—hits close to home. Let’s examine steps you can take now to make life easier if something happens.
First, consider how you might learn about a disaster or some other incident.
In this day and age of cell phones and a 24-hour news cycle, this is easier than ever. Also in play is IPAWS, or the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System that was developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. IPAWS can deliver a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) via a 90-chararacter text to mobile devices in case of emergency. The WEA will tell you the type of alert and what you should do in response.
If you use social media, you probably know that Facebook and Twitter are great ways to find out what is going on in your community. You can follow key pages, including the Dominion Post, the city of Morgantown, and, of course, Monongalia County Health Department. We post updates almost daily on health news in the area.
You can also follow the social media of your local neighborhood associations. This is a great way to meet neighbors, which could be even more vital down the road during an incident. There are also apps such as Nextdoor. You can download it to your smartphone and get alerts about lost cats, power outages or worse.
Next, make a plan for your family. Do you have a shelter plan? What items would you need if you couldn’t leave home for a few days? This is where having an emergency kit comes in handy. It should include food and water for everyone in your household—including pets—to last three days. Count on a gallon of water per person per day.
Other items should include a first aid kit, battery-powered radio and flashlights as well as plenty of batteries for both, moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal sanitation, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, a manual can opener for food, a local map and a cell phone plus charger and a back-up battery plan.
There is a lot more information on preparedness at Ready.gov. It’s not fun to think about disasters, whether due to weather, power outages or a violent incident. But there is peace of mind knowing that you are prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.