Preparedness can lessen impact of disaster

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, September 8, 2010

by Joey Hardison

Throughout September, in recognition of the seventh annual National Preparedness Month, activities and events will take place across the country to highlight the importance of emergency preparedness and to promote individual involvement in preparation for emergency response.

Local restoration company SERVPRO of Suffolk/Smithfield/Franklin is offering free preparedness materials.

The focus of this year’s campaign, “Plan Now — Work Together — Be Ready,” is to encourage Americans to work together to take concrete actions toward emergency preparedness.

A disaster like a flood, fire or blizzard can be such a stressful situation to homeowners and business owners. When we service people who have taken steps to prepare for such a catastrophe, we realize their chances for staying safe and recovering quickly certainly increase.

Area residents can begin to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster by taking the following steps to lessen the impact on their families and communities if disaster strikes.

• Prepare an emergency supply kit. You should plan for three days of supplies, so you’ll need water — a gallon per person per day — and non-perishable foods. Then add basic tools (wrench, pliers, can opener, matches), fire extinguisher, flashlight and radio with extra batteries, first-aid kit, extra clothing and hygiene items, garbage bags and duct tape, copies of important documents (insurance policies, identification, bank accounts), cash and local maps.

• Establish a family emergency plan. Designate an out-of-town contact as your family’s centralized, emergency communications facilitator in case your family is not together when a disaster strikes. Add that person’s number to your emergency contacts on each family member’s cell phone. If you can’t reach that individual with a call from a cell phone, try texting.

• Stay informed. Learn about your community’s emergency procedures, and participate in activities planned during National Preparedness Month.

While it’s common for individuals to insure their homes, cars and possessions, and even to prepare living wills to protect their families in the event of some unthinkable accident, only 36 percent believe there is a high likelihood of a natural disaster ever happening in their community, according to a 2009 Citizen Corps National Survey.

And yet, disasters can, and do happen every day. In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has recorded 63 declared disasters to date this year alone, up from 59 for 2009.

Being prepared for an emergency requires a team effort. First, families need to make a plan, and each family member needs to know what to do. Then, communities and businesses need to have contingency plans in place to ensure their residents and workers stay informed.

By working together, individuals, families, businesses and communities can make a real difference in minimizing the impact that a disaster has on their lives and their livelihoods.