Preparedness is something that has the potential to impact us all—disasters do not discriminate across those in the mountains or the beach, in the city or on a farm, with a family or on your own just getting out of college, working your first job ever or the big shot executive. We all know someone that has been impacted by a disaster, that is, if we have not been deeply touched by one ourselves. Are you prepared? Why is it that we—as a culture—struggle with something that has the potential to be so pervasive and destructive? Is it because we are inherently optimistic? Is it because we have such confidence in our government? Is it because ‘it will never happen to me?’ Is it because I think I am prepared, but really there are many gaping holes in my plan? Many theorists say it is a bit of all of the above.
At Corner Alliance, we do a lot of preparedness related work. Based on that work, we’ve identified simple 5 actions that any individual can take to be better prepared:
- 72 Hours: If households across the Nation are self-sufficient for three days, only the high-risk cases will strain our emergency response system during a disaster. FEMA’s ready.gov website is very helpful for understanding what you need: http://www.ready.gov/kit
- Make a plan for communication and reunification: The scariest part of a disaster is being separated and/or not knowing the status of your child, significant other, elderly parent, and any other loved ones. Visit www.readynova.org for a helpful planning tool to walk you through essential considerations.
- Sign up for emergency alerts: We all have smartphones and we all use them a bit too frequently I bet. They are tremendous tools to find out about emerging events that may impact our safety. All citizens should be signed up for local emergency alerts and opt in to the national alerts available. Here is a list of the alerting authorities across the Nation by state: http://www.fema.gov/integrated-public-alert-warning-system-authorities
- Pay attention to the weather: Unfortunately Mother Nature isn’t always pleasant. Depending on where we live there is the potential for tornadoes, wildfires, snowstorms, extreme high temperatures, or hurricanes. We must be aware of extreme weather in our community and take it seriously. If it is snowing, do not drive. If it is 100 degrees outside, do not run the half-marathon. If there is a tornado warning, do not go outside. The National Weather Service makes it easy for us: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html#.U5ZMPlxxspE
- Only call 9-1-1 if it is a true emergency: In a discussion I had with a local official a few months ago, he stated there are about 300 citizens per first responder out on the street at any given moment in his suburban jurisdiction. So when the power is out or there are two feet of snow on the ground, 9-1-1 calls that are not truly emergencies strain our emergency response system. If all citizens understand this, we can empower ourselves about our role in our own preparedness to relieve the burden from the response community. No URL needed.
If we, as citizens, can use these 5 tips, it will go a long way to reducing the strain disasters and emergencies put on our response system. It will also help us build a culture of preparedness across the country. What key messages are not included here that can help build a culture of preparedness?