When a large-scale emergency or disaster occurs, there is typically little or no warning. First responder resources are quickly taxed beyond their normal capabilities. Public utilities such as electricity, water, and communications may be disrupted for hours or even days. And although state and federal disaster response will be called to help, it can take several days to get these resources in place. This is why personal disaster preparedness is so vital.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) strongly suggests that individuals and families make preparations to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours after a disaster occurs. According to the FEMA website ready.gov, individuals and families should, 1) be informed, 2) make a plan, 3) build a kit, and 4) get involved. What do these basic preparedness tenets mean?
Being informed includes:
- Knowing the most likely threats you may face based on where you live. Immediate natural threats to Cochise County include wildfires, flash flooding and severe storms/wind.
- Knowing how to mitigate (as much as possible) threat and protect your family and possessions. A good place to start is the internet. websites such as knowing how to obtain information during an emergency. Sign up for the County's Emergency Notification System to receive emergency information to your cellphone (text and/or voice), house phone, or email.
Family Emergency Plans
Family emergency plans should include:
- How will my family/household get emergency alerts and warnings?
- How will my family/household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?
- How will my family/household get in touch if cell phones, internet, or landlines don't work?
- How will I let loved ones know I am safe?
- How will my family/household get to a meeting place after the emergency?
Great planning resources are available at ready.gov.
Basic Emergency Kits
A basic emergency kit should include:
- Water: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and a manual can opener
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Prescription medications
- Whistle to signal for help
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Cell phone charger, inverter or solar charger
How Can You Get Involved?
- Volunteer to support disaster efforts in your community. Get trained and volunteer with a local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. Your local fire or law enforcement agency may also have a volunteer group. Many local faith-based and community organizations have programs active in supporting disasters too.
- Join or start a preparedness project. For example, Cochise County Emergency Management has a Praise & Preparedness program. This program helps local churches prepare an emergency plan, promote emergency preparedness among the membership, and even form a disaster response group if desired.
- If you live in an area with a wildfire threat, consider forming a neighborhood Firewise group. Great information can be found on the National Fire Protection Association website.
- Support major disasters by donating cash or goods which may help meet the needs of your community in times of disaster. One caveat: be careful to donate only what is requested. Often during a disaster, well-meaning residents donate used clothes or other items that are not needed. This causes additional burdens (warehousing, collections, etc.) on disaster response personnel and resources. Cash donations are typically best.
Disaster Preparedness is not only for individuals and families. Businesses should also be prepared for disasters by developing a Business Continuity Plan. According to FEMA disaster statistics, 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year of the disaster. For a community to successfully recover from the impacts of a disaster, it is essential for local businesses to recover. Having a business continuity plan can increase the chances of a business surviving a disaster. And while professional business continuity consultants can be contracted to guide business owners through the planning process, there are free online resources to help small businesses develop basic business continuity plans. Go to ready.gov to get started.
This page is not an all-inclusive preparedness resource. It is intended to get you started down the road of personal disaster preparedness. Remember, during a disaster normal public services may be disrupted for several days. Being informed, having a plan, building a kit and knowing how to get involved will make you and your family more self-reliant during those critical 72 hours after impact. And self-reliant citizens result in disaster-resilient communities. Get started…