2014-08-29 / In the Know

September is National Preparedness Month

By B. Michael Thurlow
Special to the Leader

Be Disaster Aware, Take Action Prepare is FEMA’s slogan for this year’s National Preparedness Month, which runs the entire month of September.

It was officially dedicated in 2004 after the tragic events of 9/11 to increase preparedness across the United States. Preparedness is a shared responsibility; it takes a whole community.

That’s why during September we remind the public about things they can do to be better prepared for emergencies and disasters.

Individuals and businesses should be prepared to essentially fend for themselves for 72 hours (3 days) after a significant event.

During a disaster public safety and other resources are going to be stretched thin and will only be able to deal with the most serious incidents. It is important that you have a go kit and sufficient supplies of food, drinking water, medications, flashlights and batteries, and other essential items to survive, possibly without utilities, for an extended period of time without assistance.

There are many sources of detailed information about what should be in a go kit and what supplies you should keep on hand in your home or business on the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Maine Emergency Management Agency websites.

During emergencies family members and loved ones will want to know where you are and how you are doing.

Establish a communication plan to check in regularly with someone that doesn’t live in this area so family and friends will be able to get updates on you if they can’t get through on local cell or phone lines.

Create an evacuation plan (including transportation plans to get there) so you have a place to stay with friends or family members if you have to leave town instead of having to stay at a public shelter.

Businesses need to have continuity of business plans that address things like data back-up, potential offsite locations to operate from if needed, inventory replacement, and additional staffing.

Individuals also need to think of things such as having copies of important papers including identification, insurance certificates, deeds, etc. stored off-site.

Citizens should keep some cash available for emergency purchases because without power many vendors won’t be able to process credit card transactions and ATMs and banks may not be open.

Citizens need to be resilient to survive and to help their neighbors during a disaster. Over the past couple of years articles on that subject have been included in this space to raise awareness on Scarborough’s community-wide resiliency program.

The Scarborough Public Library maintains an extensive site on personal resiliency at: http://scarboroughlibrary.org/resiliency/index.html.

When planning for emergencies don’t forget about pets. They will require food, water and other supplies. Most public shelters now have plans to accommodate pets (including Scarborough), but it is usually better to find a place to stay with family and friends. Owners will be more comfortable and so will a pet.

It is human nature to think that some of the disasters we witness on the nightly news shows will never happen to us, but that isn’t the case.

Everyone should learn personal resiliency skills, have supplies on hand, and solid plans for what they will do when disaster strikes. That will give families the peace of mind to weather the storm.

For more information or send a question about this article or any fire department issue, contact me at mthurl@ci.scarborough.me.us or 730-4201.

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