Thursday, September 1, 2011
The following was contributed by Guest Blogger Jeff Jellets, Territorial Disaster Coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Southern Headquarters in Atlanta, GA.
September is National Preparedness Month.
The timing is always curious to me. September is the historical peak of hurricane season and most years, I’m way too busy responding to a looming tropical cyclone to think – at that point anyway — much of preparedness. When you live in the path of hurricanes, the best time to prepare is … well … way before September 1st.
But September 2011 also marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a terrible event that also serves as a somber reminder that America, as a people and a nation, must be always be prepared. As www.ready.gov, FEMA’s disaster preparedness website, succinctly states September 2011 marks a “Time To Remember. A Time To Prepare.”
And, while most of my Septembers have been preoccupied with the paths and intensities of tropical storms, 9/11 has always remained a day apart. I served in New York City at the World Trade Center site, and not a year passes in my life when that day is not marked in remembrance. I am sure most Americans will take “Time To Remember” those that were lost on that terrible day in 2001 and, like me, will also take time to honor all those who continue to serve our great country today.
But what does “A Time To Prepare” really mean?
First, prepare yourself, your family and your home. This means developing a family disaster plan, building a family disaster kit, and protecting your home from the most common disaster hazards. For example, every home should have a smoke detector to protect your family from fire, and every home should have a weather radio to warn your family of dangerous weather. What if you had to evacuate? Where would you go? If your family was separated in emergency, how would you reconnect with one another after reaching safe locations? These are questions you should answer long before disasters threaten.
Don’t let your family become disaster victims! Be survivors. By preparing, you not only protect yourself and those you love, but you also put yourself into a position where you are much more likely to be able to help others. Just as importantly, by being ready to take care of yourself, you allow professional emergency responders to focus their attention on life-saving efforts for others who may be trapped are in the areas hardest hit by the disaster.
Second, prepare your community. And in this sense, I mean community in the broadest sense of the word. First, you need to think about your neighborhood. In an emergency, it is often your neighbors who will be the first people to rush to help. In a catastrophic incident, like an earthquake or ice storm, where whole communities are affected, professional emergency responders may need to time to reach your particular area. Know the people in your neighborhood who have special needs, such as the elderly or small children, and plan to check-in on them during a crisis to ensure they are okay. Likewise, identify people in your neighborhood with special skills or training. If a doctor or nurse lives on your block, that’s important to know.
Now extend your community preparedness efforts beyond where you live. Think about where you work, where your children go to school or daycare, where you worship, and even the car you drive. Disasters can occur at any time or place … so it is just as important to have a disaster plan for your workplace or church and a disaster kit in your car as well as your home. Talk to your children’s school or daycare about their emergency plans and make sure they have a procedure for reunifying you with your child in the event of an emergency.
Third, prepare to help others. Once you have taken care of yourself, your family and your community, then you can start thinking about helping others. The most important thing to remember here is to help appropriately. In the United States, most municipalities have a disaster response and recovery plan coordinated by a local emergency management agency. If you want to help, you have to fit into that plan. One of the easiest ways to do so is to affiliate with an existing voluntary agency, like The Salvation Army, or check to see if your community supports a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Another important point to remember is that training is essential. The Salvation Army, among other voluntary agencies, offers disaster training. If you are not sure where to start, let me recommend basic first aid and CPR. Basic lifesaving skills have application far beyond just disaster response; even on the quietest day, someone around you might become injured or ill and it may be up to you to help save their life.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you by this point to take emergency preparedness a bit more seriously this September than you have in the past. If so, let me give you one more challenge – Don’t stop preparing on September 31st!
As Spencer W. Kimball said, “Preparedness, when properly pursued, is a way of life, not a sudden, spectacular program.” Make your emergency preparedness and planning efforts more than a one month endeavor. Revisit and update your family and neighborhood disaster plans periodically. Change the supplies in your family disaster kit so the food, water, batteries and other perishables stay fresh. In short, don’t let the major lessons of past disasters fade away.
Stay tuned for “What’s In Your Disaster Kit?” in Part 2 of our National Preparedness Month blog – coming soon!