By Tara L. Sweeney and Jennifer L. Bishop
September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, which means this is the perfect time to evaluate your personal emergency readiness posture. There are tangible steps you can take right now that can dramatically and positively impact your ability to recognize and handle challenging events across the emergency spectrum, whether such an emergency is a limited crisis in your own life or a hazard of national significance. Your personal preparation really can make a substantial difference not only for you, but also for your family, your community, and the country.
Be Informed. Educate yourself about the spectrum of emergency situations that can potentially impact your safety and well-being. Base-level knowledge of potential hazards will help you better understand the situation unfolding around you and guide you to initiate basic protective actions in the critical moments before, during, and after an emergency strikes.
Make a Plan. Identify the steps you will likely need to take when faced with an emergency situation. You will want to consider the locations (home, school, work, etc.) of where you might be when an emergency strikes, identify specific safe locations (shelters, support agencies, hospitals, etc.) where you can get help or reunite with family, and determine how you will communicate (land-line phone, cell phone, text message, social networking, etc.) with loved ones, both near and far. The goal is to create something written to which you can refer and update. Checklists are a great way to capture key items and can serve as a source of steadiness during a crisis, allowing you to methodically process through the pre-determined items on your list. Once your plan is completed, be sure to give your plan to people who are important to you.
Build a Kit. Collect basic household items that you may need for an emergency situation and store them in bag/backpack/container in a particular area of your home, vehicle, and/or workplace. That way, the items are pre-identified and will be easy to access for use and/or to take with you in the event of an evacuation. Your kit should include food, water, medical supplies, tools, and other items that would, generally, allow you to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours. Make sure you monitor expiration dates of items and replenish accordingly.
Get Involved. Share your knowledge, expertise, and energy. Most experts agree that depending on the size and scope of an emergency, responder agencies can be overwhelmed, especially in the early moments of a situation. Therefore, portions of your community may need to take care of basic needs prior to the arrival of professionals. So, volunteer your time now by helping individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches, and communities prepare and become more knowledgeable. Be prepared to be a source of expertise and strength as an emergency is unfolding. And be willing to give of your energy and resources during the recovery.
Your personal emergency readiness posture should be viewed as an ongoing state. Continually strive to expand your knowledge, review/update your plans, verify the completeness of your kit, and commit to help others. In doing so, you, your family, your community, and the country will be better prepared to handle challenging events across the emergency spectrum. For additional information, below are several excellent resources that can help you explore, in greater detail, the topics discussed.
Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.ready.gov/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/BeReady/
American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/nationalpreparednessmonth
Citizen Corps: http://www.citizencorps.gov
Community Emergency Response Team: http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/
(Tara Sweeney and Jennifer Bishop are principals/operators of an emergency response/homeland security related business, serve as Community Emergency Response Team members, and are United States Air Force veterans. Together, they are committed to the continual promotion of a well-informed and well-prepared citizenry when faced with an emergency situation.)