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School is in Session
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Leslie A. Smith
August 5, 2008

As parents and teachers prepare all the supplies necessary for a successful new school year—backpacks, folders, pencils and more—now is also a great time to prepare for emergencies. 

September marks not only the return of classes but also National Preparedness Month, a nationwide effort sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The American Red Cross joins a coalition of more than 1,500 organizations in this effort, and encourages everyone to take some simple steps to be ready for the unexpected, whether it is a first aid emergency, power outage, or events that can affect an entire community, such as tornadoes and floods. 

Get a Kit
Although the beginning of a new school year is a hectic time for many individuals and families, getting prepared doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, expensive process. Julie Paradiso, Health and Safety Officer at the Madison Center Cooperative Playgroup in Arlington, Virginia, acknowledges that getting prepared can be overwhelming for busy families and recommends starting small. 

“Every step you take to prepare is helpful. Cover the major items first, such as food, water, money, documents, first aid supplies, flashlight, radio, and important phone numbers—then add to these as you can.”

One way of getting a jump-start on building an emergency preparedness kit is to add some of the items to your back-to-school shopping list. You can also download a checklist of emergency supplies and create a personalized shopping list for your household through the Be Red Cross Ready tool on the Red Cross website. 

Make a Plan
At the beginning of the school year when schools share their emergency plans with parents, this is a good opportunity for families to create or update their own family emergency plan. 

Every family should create and practice an evacuation and communications plan. Each person should know how to reach other family members and where to meet if they can’t return home. You should also designate an out-of-area relative or friend as an emergency contact and make sure all household members know how to contact this person.

To make an evacuation plan, choose two meeting places: one right outside your home in case you need to escape in a hurry, like in the event of a house fire, and another outside of your neighborhood in case a disaster prevents you from returning home. Make sure everyone in your household knows and has practiced your plan. (Remember to make a plan for your pets too!)

Be Informed
Just as kids perform better on a test when they have the necessary knowledge, families can react better in an emergency if they are well-informed beforehand.  

In order to best prepare, find out what types of disasters are more likely to occur where you live and how you would receive information from local officials in the event of a disaster.  Also, events such as power outages, house fires, and first aid emergencies can happen anywhere, so everyone should take steps to be prepared for them. 

Part of being informed is learning first aid and CPR so that you have the skills to respond in an emergency before help arrives. To learn more and view CPR/AED and first aid demonstrations, visit the Be Red Cross Ready website or contact your local Red Cross chapter to register for a class. 

This September, as kids return to school to learn and prepare for the future, the American Red Cross encourages everyone to prepare—for themselves, their families and their communities.  The Red Cross invites everyone to get involved this National Preparedness Month and make a “Pledge to Prepare” today.  

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

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