Although emergency preparedness is a year-round activity, during the spring FEMA, Ready.gov, and other agencies begin their yearly push, starting with America's Preparathon! at the end of April, and culminating with National Preparedness Month in September.
And they aren't alone. The chorus of American agencies and organizations urging citizens to prepare for emergencies includes:
- Shakeout.org and the USGS promotes dozens of major earthquake drills every year across the country and around the world
- The American Public Health Association (APHA) promotes preparedness every year
- NOAA promotes severe weather preparedness year round and Hurricane preparedness starting in late May each year.
- The CDC's Emergency Preparedness & Response division has an entire website devoted to citizen and professional preparedness for everything from pandemics, to radiological incidents, and natural disasters.
- To these you can add the AMERICAN RED CROSS, state and local governments, and grassroots efforts, including this blog.
The reason behind these concerted efforts is simple, and it has nothing to do with the incessant yammering on the Internet about an imminent Yellowstone eruption, a collision with a rogue planet, a nuclear strike, or any other `doomsday' event.
It is based on the simple knowledge that dozens of disasters hit the United States every year, and they have the potential to affect millions of people.
Blizzards, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires . . . even major earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and pandemics are possible - and in the opening days of a big disaster - many individuals and families will find themselves pretty much on their own.
While the mantra of most of these agencies is to be able to cope with the first 3 days of a disaster, those who were living in New Orleans (Katrina) or Miami (Wilma) in 2005, or New Jersey or New York in 2012 (Sandy), would probably tell you 72 hours isn't always enough.
And it doesn't take being unprepared for a major disaster to ruin your entire day. As a paramedic I've seen scores of cases where a family having a good first aid kit (and the knowledge to use it), CPR skills, or a good emergency plan would have saved both lives and heartache.
By visiting FEMA's America's Preparathon! web page, you can find out `where preparedness events are happening in your community, connect with other communities of practice, and add your own activities to the map to demonstrate how you are taking action to prepare'.
FEMA describes some of the activities, and gives some suggestions of how you can take part:
On Saturday, April 30, National PrepareAthon! Day will inspire individuals, organizations, and communities throughout the United States to prepare for emergencies. It’s an entire day dedicated to action and doing preparedness activities.America’s PrepareAthon! is promoting ten ways to participate in preparedness and is asking everyone to take action, be counted, and spread the word. Examples include:
- Gather important documents and keep them in a safe place. Have all of your personal, medical, and legal papers in one place, so you can evacuate without worrying about gathering your family’s critical documents at the last minute. Visit ready.gov/prepare and download Be Smart: Protect Your Critical Documents and Valuables for a helpful checklist.
- Sign up for local text alerts and warnings, get the latest forecast at weather.gov and download weather apps to stay aware of worsening weather conditions. Visit ready.gov/prepare and download Be Smart: Know Your Alerts and Warnings to learn how sign up for local alerts and weather apps that are relevant for hazards that affect your area.
- Create a family communications plan. Visit ready.gov/prepare and download Be Smart. Take Part: Create Your Family Emergency Communication Plan. Collect the information you need, decide on the places you will meet in case of an emergency, share the information with your family, and practice your plan.
It doesn't require an underground bunker, a 20-year supply of freeze dried food, or an armory to be prepared for disasters, and you certainly don't have to be a member of the tin-foil hat brigade to be a prepper.
All you need is to take some sensible, often low cost steps, to ensure you and your family are better positioned to deal with an emergency.
At a bare minimum, every household should have a disaster plan, a good first aid kit (and the knowledge to use it), an emergency battery operated NWS weather radio, and emergency supplies to last a minimum of 72 hours during a disaster. Frankly, a week is better.
I live in hurricane country, and so I feel more comfortable with 10 days to 2 weeks worth of supplies. And I'd feel the same way if I lived in earthquake country, or in any large metropolitan area.
I'll be ramping up my preparedness blogging as in the days and weeks ahead, but for more on increasing your level of preparedness now, you'll find a short list of some of previous preparedness blogs below: