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Homeland Security Secretary Calls on Americans to Help Build a Ready and Resilient Nation
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September 29, 2009

In a speech given today at the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano underscored the vital role citizens play in securing the nation from all types of emergencies.

Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern speaks with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano after her speech at Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern speaks with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano after her speech at Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The event opened with remarks by Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern.

“Just like the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, the Red Cross wants to get the word out that preparedness is easy and just means taking three simple steps: get a kit, make a plan and be informed,” said McGovern.

McGovern then introduced Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), commenting on the collaboration between the Red Cross and FDEM: “The Red Cross has worked with Craig during many Florida hurricanes, so we couldn’t be happier that he will now be leading FEMA’s disaster response across the nation,” she said.

Readiness and Resilience: a Shared Responsibility
Secretary Napolitano opened her remarks by recognizing three individuals who contribute to their communities’ readiness, two of them Red Cross volunteers: Martin Nkwain, Jane Flemion and Marina Kromah.

Napolitano then began to discuss the importance of readiness and resilience in making a country secure, describing these two qualities as “twin strands that make a stronger cable once they’re woven together.”

The Secretary cited Red Cross survey findings that while most Americans have given some thought to preparedness, far fewer have taken the necessary steps to keep their family safe in an emergency.

Napolitano emphasized the importance of a bottom-up approach, with individuals and communities working together and sharing the responsibility. “We need to leave behind the notion that securing our nation is just a job for the government,” she said.

Referring to the fact that civilians are usually the first to arrive in a crisis, Napolitano encouraged citizens to become an even stronger force by taking steps such as:

  • Taking CPR training from the Red Cross
  • Training with a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) for search and rescue, crowd control, or first aid
  • Knowing when it’s best to take shelter or evacuate
  • Assembling an emergency “go kit” to take with you during an evacuation or to shelter-in-place without outside assistance for at least 3 days
  • Pre-planning evacuation routes and where to meet after a disaster strikes

Call to Action
Napolitano continued her speech with a call to action, saying, “Let’s have the end of National Preparedness Month be the beginning of something much bigger.”

She then outlined the basic preparedness steps individuals and communities can take to ensure the country is ready and resilient: get an emergency kit, make a family reunification plan and get better informed about the types of emergencies your community is most likely to encounter. 

Napolitano also encouraged individuals to help build a ready and resilient nation by giving back to their communities through volunteer service and asking how their communities are prepared for emergencies. 

Concluding her remarks, Napolitano again emphasized the importance of individuals and communities in making the country strong, stating, “We should measure our nation’s security not just by the borders we strengthen and the laws we enforce, but also by the strength and resilience of the communities we build.”

You can read the transcript of Secretary Napolitano’s speech at www.ready.gov or www.citizencorps.gov. 

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; 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 mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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