This week, Phoenix, Arizona, had extreme flooding and, before that, Napa, California, experienced a 6.0-magnitude earthquake. Landslides, earthquakes, extreme heat, floods, hurricanes, severe weather, space weather, thunderstorms and lightning, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and wildfires are just some of the natural disasters that can plague us in a given year. Yet “nearly 70 percent of Americans have not participated in a preparedness drill or exercise outside of fire drills at their place of work, school or home in the last two years,” according to Gwen Camp, director of FEMA's Individual and Community Preparedness Division.
September is National Preparedness Month, and the theme this year is “Be Disaster Aware: Take Action to Prepare.” Throughout the month, FEMA will be helping individuals and communities understand the risks and gather the tools they need to be more resilient in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies. They are sharing information and resources to community leaders, schools, houses of worship, and businesses that want to organize preparedness training events twice a year in April and September — and you can get involved too. Each week they will help people take some sort of action to prepare themselves for an emergency because, as we all know, many of these events come as a complete surprise.
Most all of this activity will culminate on September 30 in America's PrepareAthon, when a lot of communities across the nation will hold some kind of event designed to provide information or even train people on what to do when disaster strikes. Some events may occur in later weeks. It all depends on a community's overall calendar of events, but FEMA's website, Ready.gov, shows when and where these events will be occurring: America's PrepareAthon Event Map.
If you can't participate in an event, FEMA's site is a great resource to help you plan for all kinds of emergencies from pandemics to winter storms too. Their Natural Disasters web page is an excellent resource to understand about each of the disasters listed above, as well as how to make a plan, build an emergency kit, and help your kids deal with disasters too. For those that are interested, Red Cross has a number of natural disaster applications for your smartphone too. Teach your kids and elderly family members how to use them!
FEMA wants you to learn about your local hazards and take action by practicing plans and participating in a PrepareAthon event. And I think this is an important part of emergency preparedness that is often overlooked. Participating in such an event is a good way to get involved with your community programs, houses of worship, schools, and workplaces. When you make yourself known to people in the emergency preparedness community, they will recognize you as someone that has training and is reliable to offer assistance to others in need. So often when disasters strike, people are offended when a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other individual doesn't accept their help. But honestly, if they do not know you, they can't in good conscience enlist your support in any way. And without proper training, you can be a potential hazard to them in their effort. Make yourself known to the emergency preparedness workers in your community, so at a minimum they are aware of your ability to help and your intentions.
Do you know which disasters could happen in your community and what to do to be safe and mitigate damage? Will you participate in your community's disaster planning efforts?