September is National Preparedness Month
By Mary Wade Triplett
West Virginians are no strangers to flooding but seeing the remnants of Harvey plowing through Texas and Louisiana makes us feel a variety of emotions, including, “What if that happened here?”
And that’s why being prepared is so important. September is National Preparedness Month, promoted by the national Ready Campaign.
The Ready Campaign is breaking down being prepared into four steps, and today we’ll be focusing on the first one, which is to make a plan for yourself, your family and your friends.
First up is figuring out how you will know an emergency is on the way. In this day and age of cell phones and a 24-hour news cycle, this can 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.
Texting also might be the best way to contact loved one in an emergency, as it is not unprecedented for cell phone service to be interrupted or spotty during chaotic circumstances. Plus, it’s good to have a back-up plan for your family to have a rendezvous location in case you can’t contact each other when a situation arises. Create a paper copy of contact information for everyone in the family, along with information for doctors or other medical facilities, schools and service providers. Make sure everyone keeps a copy in a purse, backpack or wallet. If you do this online at ready.gov/make-a-plan, you can print out a wallet-sized card.
Next up is figuring out where to take shelter. If you can shelter at home, the location inside your house can vary depending on the type of emergency. For instance, in the case of a tornado, you would want to stay in a basement or an interior room that doesn’t have outside walls or windows.
Other places to shelter also might include your place of employment, with friends or family outside the hazard area or in a mass care facility operated by a disaster relief group. The type of shelter you seek can depend on your circumstances as well as the type of emergency.
In case you do need to shelter inside your home, you should stock up on supplies to have on hand. These include at least a three-day supply of food and water for each member of your family, as well as any necessary medications. It’s also wise to have a battery-operated radio, extra batteries and a flashlight.
And don’t forget your pets. The Ready Campaign has created a plan just for pets. Disaster relief workers have realized first-hand that the effort to save pets has motivated people to stay at home rather than seek a safe shelter or otherwise put them in additional danger. So more and more, pets are included in the planning process for when the unexpected happens. It was heartwarming to see people with their pooches in Houston shelters. And it’s also a good idea to create a separate emergency kit for Fido and Fluffy that includes food and water. Also have photos handy in case you get separated, and make a list of emergency shelters that accept pets.
The next step is to figure out evacuation routes, alternate routes and potential destinations if you do need to leave your home. If you anticipate a potential emergency, make sure to keep your gas tank full. You also need to have a plan to maintain contact with your family as well as to re-unite in case you become separated from each other or are not together at the outset of a disaster.
And finally, take the time to go over these steps with your family. Hold regular household meetings to make sure everyone understands the plans that have been created.
These are the basic tips to be ready for the unexpected. For more information on how you can be prepared, check out the Ready Campaign’s website. You also might want to consider participating in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Prepareathon Day, which this year takes place on September 15. Find out more at community.fema.gov.