September is National Preparedness Month . . . are you ready for an emergency?
Bob Ankrapp, PEM
Emergency Manager & Public Information Officer
City of Dearborn Heights
Each September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) joins efforts with national, regional, state and local governments to recognize National Preparedness Month – bringing focus to the importance of citizens taking responsibility for helping protect themselves in case of large-scale emergencies.
A quick look at the recent incidents our nation has experienced regarding extreme weather events, wildfires, power outages, another pandemic-related challenge on the horizon and more, prove we need to take stock in our (and our loved ones’) safety. The need has never been greater. These events impact our health, our physical safety, our personal relationships, our financial and business dealings – and for many, even the way we reflect on how we conduct our own personal lives.
As I write this article, the Weather Channel is on in the background describing the impact and dangers associated with the extreme heat and drought conditions our country is experiencing – along with a host of severe storms and heavy rains which has caused widespread flooding from the severe storms and hurricanes that have taken (and are still taking) place.
Closer to home, we Michiganders experience our fair share of heat, severe thunderstorms, local flooding, winter storms and power outages throughout the year – but thankfully, typically nothing as damaging or life-threatening as those incidents being experienced in other states – although troublesome, potentially hazardous and expensive nonetheless.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we as residents can do to alter the occurrence of most large-scale events. We can’t change the course or intensity of the storms, the level of the flood waters that surround us during major storms, the amount of snow that falls on us, the temperatures we experience, or even the existence and persistence of another potential pandemic incident. And in spite of our best precautionary and planning efforts, certain man-made incidents, such as fires, hazardous leaks/spills, and transportation accidents (whether accidental or deliberate) can, and will happen – and typically with little or no advance public warning.
Most communities, in concert with their county and state agencies have continually-updated plans and procedures in place that will effectively direct the overall response and recovery efforts during large-scale incidents. These plans are executed by staffs of trained and dedicated responders (Fire, EMS, Police, Public Works, Emergency Management, etc.) who will respond quickly and efficiently – and are further supported by various non-governmental volunteer organizations (NGO’s) and private companies that also stand ready to assist in times of need.
In all this, the unfortunate reality is however, that professional response/rescue personnel can only be in so many places at once – and in some cases (such as incidents where there is widespread and severe damage), response times can be delayed. People need to plan ahead for emergencies!
We need to remind ourselves continuously that WE are ultimately responsible for the initial steps that will help protect our loved ones, our property and ourselves in the face of emergencies of all types. By committing to taking some simple steps that will help prepare our loved ones, our homes and our workplaces for emergencies – we can help reduce the negative impact of incidents on our lives and the lives of those around us. As one of my emergency management colleagues once said, “you can’t just sit back, do nothing, and expect responders to come charging up on white horses to take care of all your needs – people HAVE to take a role in helping plan for their own safety.”
By taking a few simple and inexpensive common-sense steps to plan and prepare for emergencies, all citizens – both young and old – can help make the difference between a disastrous experience and one that is easily survivable. We only need to look as far as the power outages many of us experienced this summer to realize how inconvenient an unexpected “glitch” in our regular routine can be – and how important it is to have even the most basic of safety measures in place.
Your planning process should begin by taking a good look at your lifestyle and household status. This will help determine your family’s priorities and needs. Are there infants/young children, seniors, or individuals in your home with specific medical and/or physical challenges or needs? Are there any pets in your household? Think in terms of what these individuals would need to survive if (in a worst-case scenario) there were no “outside” resources to depend on for 2 or 3 days. Going beyond your own home, are there nearby neighbors (particularly the elderly) who may have needs like this, but may be restricted in their mobility – and perhaps do not enjoy the benefit of having family who can assist? If it’s possible, consider helping them as well.
There are a host of organizations you can look to that provide helpful (and free) information on planning for emergencies. Organizations such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.ready.gov), the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies.html), the Michigan State Police (www.michigan.gov/michiganprepares) and Wayne County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (www.waynecounty.com/departments/hsem/emergency-management.aspx) have websites that are particularly helpful. In addition, your community’s Office of Emergency Management can also provide valuable information that will help guide you through this important process.
By investing just a few hours of planning, you can give yourself and your family the gift of safety and peace of mind – something that in a time of crisis, will be priceless.