Are you, your family prepared for an emergency or disaster?
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 8, 2014) -- Every September for the last 11 years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency kicks off National Preparedness Month and more than 3,000 organizations -- national, regional and local, public and private organizations -- follow suit to offer information on emergency preparedness efforts by encouraging Americans to be prepared before a disaster or emergency strikes.
Heading up the Army's Emergency Management Program at the Pentagon, Bill Newman said the Ready Army Program, a spin-off from the Ready Government version, focuses on Soldiers, civilians and their families, and helps them to "Prepare Strong."
"It's an outreach program designed to give ideas on how to plan, assist and prepare them for emergencies by having a kit if you need to evacuate -- what would be the things you might want to take with you," he said. "You want to have a plan for your family while staying informed through your chain of command to keep up with current events."
Each Army family is different and so are their needs and priorities, Newman added, but obviously the first things people need are food and water, so the first part of preparing strong is to get a kit.
CREATE A KIT
Since the water and electricity might be shut down or not working, he says plan for one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, and stock your kit with Meals, Ready-to-Eat, since they're high in calories, which translates to energy.
If you have infants, ensure there's plenty of formula and diapers; a first-aid kit, sanitation supplies such as moist towelettes and a hand-cranked or battery-powered flashlight along with extra batteries of all sizes and solar re-chargers for cell phones. Newman suggested having important documents such as wills, medical and financial powers of attorney, property documents and military service records. He also recommended placing the important documents in a water-proof bag and backing up all paperwork on a portable computer hard drive.
"Overseas other essentials include passports, cash in the local currency, electrical current converter, international driver's license and birth certificates for children born overseas," Newman said.
Lastly, every family member needs to know where the emergency supply kits are located, he said, and the kits should be updated annually as medicines, food and batteries might need to be replaced.
MAKE A PLAN, THEN PRACTICE
Newman says families should next come up with a family emergency plan.
If your family is often scattered throughout a local area, consider who will call whom and where you'll meet in an emergency such as a tornado, flood or a hurricane.
Newman noted that when Army families transfer from an installation in the tornado belt to one in the hurricane belt, or even to the snow-belt, the emergency plan will need to be reviewed and changed due to weather conditions during the four seasons.
Making an emergency plan involves the five "Ws" of journalism:
Who: Open a family dialogue to discuss preparedness planning and to cover special needs and pets. If special medical assistance or transportation for a family member is needed, ask for advice from the local emergency manager.
What: Plan for hazards and regional weather patterns.
Where: Think about where family members will be throughout the day such as home, office, school or in transit. Discuss meeting places.
When: Emergencies can happen when you least expect it, so the best time to make a plan is when you think about it, then it should be reviewed at least biannually or when there are major changes in schedules or activities.
Why: Establishing a practicing family emergency plan will enable your family to respond more quickly to an emergency.
"No matter where you are in the world, there are emergency notifications and actions," Newman said. "As soon as you can after arriving at a new duty station, check out what mass warning systems are in place."
Local communities are responsible for warning the public after impending danger and Army installations provide on-post mass warding and notification procedures. Overseas, these procedures often include warning by the host-nation to Army family members living off the installation.
In the U.S., the main agencies that warn of natural hazards are the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. The NWS issues specific terms for natural hazards -- a "warning" that a hazardous event is occurring or imminent, while a "watch" designates conditions are favorable for a hazard to develop or move in.
Newman says within the U.S., other methods of getting the word out include the Emergency Alert System broadcasts on radio and television; interactive, community notification systems; telephones, cellular phones and email.
An administrative broadcast across the Army computer network can also override applications and reach all Army users almost immediately.
If Soldiers, their families and civilians are able to access the Internet, they can report their status online through the Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System.