From floods to wildfires to terrorist attacks, disaster can strike at any time. Although we can’t control the where and when of horrific events, we can take steps to reduce their impact.
This is the goal of National Preparedness Month (NPM).
Held annually throughout September, NPM is designed to save lives, mitigate damage, and help communities rebuild as quickly as possible through “disaster and emergency planning.”
This year’s theme is Prepared, Not Scared. Be Ready for Disasters. Participants of National Preparedness Month are encouraged to break September into smaller, actionable themes.
Let’s take a look.
Week 1: Save Early for Disaster Costs
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “[I]ncome is often the most important factor in individual and family preparedness.” Having a little financial wiggle room is essential when disaster strikes.
This is why FEMA recommends setting up an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) that includes:
- Emergency rations such as food, water, batteries, candles, and blankets.
- Rainy day funds so that victims can “afford” to miss work — often for extended periods.
- Insurance to help cover potential damages so that you can repair your home or business as quickly as possible.
- Digital copies of critical documentation, including medical records, insurance policies, or property deeds.
This financial preparedness needs to be in place before emergencies happen. Fortunately, Ready.gov offers a free checklist designed to speed the planning process.
Week 2: Make a Plan to Prepare for Disasters
The goal of Week 2 is to help you develop answers to the following types of questions:
- Do you know where your co-workers or family members will meet during an emergency?
- What is the best escape route out of town if you need to evacuate quickly?
- How will you get in touch with loved ones if the communication lines go down?
- Who will feed the pets or tend to elderly family members in case of an emergency?
- Are there any life-saving prescription medications that need to be stockpiled in advance?
- Are you signed up for all relevant local, state, and federal emergency alerts?
It’s too late to start answering these questions in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Your responses should already be set in stone, which is why thorough preparation is so important.
In addition to having a game plan for your household and extended family, you need ones for school, work, and all the other places your loved ones frequent.
Week 3: Teach Youth to Prepare for Disasters
Ready.gov emphasizes the importance of including children throughout the planning process. Note that there is also one week dedicated to youth preparedness.
This means developing action plans that your kids help build and understand, including:
- Evacuation routes
- Rendezvous points
- Emergency contacts
True preparedness also means coordinating with your children’s schools and day care centers to ensure administrators, teachers and other staff are all on the same page.
If you need additional help with youth preparedness:
- FEMA has Sesame Street-themed literature targeted toward younger kids.
- Ready.gov has developed free interactive games designed for adolescents.
Week 4: Get Involved in Your Community’s Preparedness
If a disaster hits your community, it might be a while before medical personnel or authorities can intervene. During this delay, the greatest resource we have is one another.
This is why true preparedness also involves developing action plans at the community level. These steps might include:
- Making sure everyone in your social network receives first-aid training and CPR certification. This is important for family members and co-workers.
- Implementing a buddy system in your neighborhood — especially if there are infirmed or elderly residents in your community.
- Educating yourself on the most likely natural disasters to affect your geographic area. Preparing for floods is very different from planning for wildfires.
- Installing FEMA’s free mobile app on your phone. It includes disaster alerts, emergency safety tips, and real-time disaster recovery centers.
In addition to Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos, Ready.gov offers free checklists and guides in 12 languages. If you really want to increase buy-in, there are plenty of social media hashtags you can use to promote preparedness within your community, including:
How Will You Recognize National Preparedness Month?
In a perfect world, none of the above would be necessary. In fact, you might not ever face a natural or man-made disaster in your lifetime — but no one ever regrets being prepared for the worst.
This September, set aside some time to carefully examine your emergency preparedness. Stay tuned for our next installment when we cover disaster planning for small business owners.