Admonitions to get prepared seem to be coming from everyone and everywhere these days. Lack of knowledge and a sense that they aren't at risk top the list of reasons people give for not preparing for potential disasters. Cost and lack of time are also noted as culprits.
The American Red Cross wants to overcome these barriers to preparedness by offering fast, easy tips throughout the month of May that take just a few minutes each day.
It Can Happen to You
In light of last year's devastating hurricanes and as the 2006 Hurricane Season approaches, the message to prepare is everywhere. Government agencies, weather forecasters, media and nonprofit organizations, including the Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States, are sounding the call for the public to get themselves ready before disaster strikes.
For the families and communities well outside hurricane prone areas, the call may seem like a wrong number, but experts warn that kind of thinking makes people vulnerable.
“Disasters aren't just big news–worthy events like hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires—that thinking is too limiting,” says preparedness expert Keith Robertory with the Red Cross. “Plain and simple, a disaster is an emergency—an unexpected, serious situation that requires urgent attention, action or assistance. It can strike anywhere and at anytime—affecting one person, one family or a whole community.”
For a family, a disastrous situation could be a child being stung by a bee, a pet struck by a car, a power outage lasting a day or two or a kitchen fire—the ramifications of which may depend largely on how well you've planned and how prepared you are to handle the situation.
While the disasters that befall entire communities or regions of the country make headlines, to the individual or family suffering, a personal disaster can be equally devastating. Taking a little time to think ahead and plan for them, according to Robertory, can make a real difference in the final outcome.
“You're preventing or mitigating at least discomfort and at best injury or property loss,” he says.
Preparedness Know-How – Easy as 1-2-3
If one takes all the pages of all the manuals and Web sites about preparedness and pares them down to their simplest messages, three basic steps for getting prepared emerge: learn, plan and assemble.
One: Learn About What Could Happen
Take time to think about and learn what could go wrong in your home, community and area of the country. This is especially important if you are new to an area of the country or have just moved into a home; check out local history and talk to neighbors. Consider questions like:
- Is the area prone to a particular type of disaster either geographically or due to severe weather?
- What is the traffic like in your community? Does it pose risks to children or pets? Would access or traffic patterns impede your ability to evacuate the area quickly and easily in the event of a large scale disaster?
- What about your environment and landscaping? Are there risks from allergies or hazards from overgrown trees threaded around power lines?
“Use a little imagination to figure out where the risks are so you will know what you need to do to prevent, prepare for or respond them,” says Robertory. “Remember, a danger doesn't have to be large-scale and life-threatening to throw your life into disarray – if it is disastrous to you, it is a disaster.”
Two: Make a Plan
Now that you have some ideas of what could potentially happen, make plans to prevent, prepare and respond to whatever could go wrong. While it may take a little time now, it isn't as difficult as you may think and could save time, aggravation and possibly a life later.
These can include a family communication plan, determining evacuation routes and having information about nearest hospitals, emergency vets or knowing which hotels in the area allow pets in the event of an evacuation.
“When I walk into a room, I look around and try to find at least two means of exiting the room,” says Robertory. “That's the beginning of an evacuation plan—assessing exit routes. It sounds much more complicated than it is.”
This planning step also could include getting trained in first aid or CPR, volunteering in your community to help others so they'll be there to help you or donating money or blood to local organizations, so those resources are there when you, your family or your neighbors need them.
Three: Assemble Emergency Supplies
Support your plans by assembling, or buying and customizing, an emergency supplies kit. It should include everything you need to prevent, prepare for and respond to whatever disasters or emergencies your family and community could face—whether you need to stay put or evacuate.
“An emergency supplies kit can seem ominous and mysterious, but is comprised of the basic necessities,” Robertory explains. “Supplies you'll need are easy to obtain and generally affordable, including items such as a flashlight, a portable radio, batteries, water or a first aid kit. Of course, whether you assemble it yourself or buy a ready-made starter kit, you'll want to add special items based for your members and their unique needs, including items like clothing, bedding, prescriptions, pet food or baby formula.”
The Red Cross sells starter kits and provides lists of supplies to build and customize your own kit. While it may seem like an overwhelming task at first, it need not be if broken down into smaller installments.
Keeping It Simple
Having hopefully demystified what it means to “get prepared,” the Red Cross is making it even easier for you by providing simple, fast and affordable tips to help you get ready—a little bit each day. Starting today and running throughout May, the Red Cross will publish easy-to-understand and follow tips each day on its national Web site, RedCross.org, at www.redcross.org/tipaday/.
Remember, being prepared isn't just about big disasters; it's about being ready to handle life's everyday emergencies head-on and coming out safe and sound.
The American Red Cross has helped people mobilize to help their neighbors for 125 years. Last year, victims of a record 72,883 disasters, most of them fires, turned to the nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross for help and hope. Through more than 800 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people each year gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world. Almost 4 million people give blood—the gift of life—through the Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The Red Cross helps thousands of U.S. service members separated from their families by military duty stay connected. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a global network of more than 180 national societies, the Red Cross helps restore hope and dignity to the world's most vulnerable people. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.