Emergency Preparedness A Personal Responsibility – Your Responsibility

Since the mid 80s, the emergency management community has preached a clear and consistent message: Prepare yourself and your family to be self sufficient for 3 days. Way back then, some even suggested 7 days! All agreed that after a major disaster, it could be days before outside help arrives. The importance of personal preparedness was re-emphasized after 9/11 by former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge: “We can be afraid or we can be ready.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was plenty of blame to go around! The government failed. Too many assumptions were made about the magnitude of the event and who was going to do what. FEMA failed. Only one year prior, FEMA had conducted a drill on a “Worst case New Orleans disaster”. Where was the follow through? And in some cases the people failed. Many assumed someone else would jump in to take care of their situation. Bad assumption! But whenever we say someone made a wrong decision, we must remember those decisions were based on perceived risks and limited resources.

The emergency management community has known and preached a clear message for more than two decades: Preparedness is a personal responsibility. It takes time and money to prepare, and the money spent may never really be needed. But in a disaster, the investments in preparedness will return dividends a thousand-fold.

1. Prepare to Meet Basic Needs Think of what your family might need in case of a quick evacuation from your home. Assemble or buy an emergency kit for your home and automobile. Be sure to include long shelf-life food and water, a medical response kit, and supplies to meet basic needs: light, warmth, communication and sanitation. Don’t forget critical medications. Ask about preparedness at your children’s school and at work.

2. Pull Together Vital Personal Information Take time now to ensure access to your important paperwork. You may want to store some documents in your emergency kit. Copies of some documents might also be sent to family members living in other areas. A partial list:

  • Medical records
  • Insurance policies
  • Credits cards and bank account information
  • Household inventory
  • Deeds
  • Important telephone numbers
  • Spare keys
  • Cash

3. Develop a Family Communications Plan Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. Ready.gov has excellent information on how to develop a family plan. Out-of-town contacts may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. Be sure every family member knows the phone number of your emergency contact.

4. Know What Could Happen in Your Community and What to Do Visit Ready.gov for information on various threats: biological threats, chemical threats, explosions, nuclear blast, radiation threats and natural disasters. Preparing our country must be done at the grassroots level – family by family, business by business, and community by community. Is your family prepared? Your company? Your community?

About the Author
Tommy Rainey is Executive Publisher of the annual Disaster Resource GUIDE and the weekly Continuity e-GUIDE, and Vice President of Emergency Lifeline, a California Corporation founded in 1985 to help businesses, government agencies and families prepare for emergencies or disasters. He can be reached at (714) 558-8940