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September is National Preparedness Month

Be a Part of the Preparedness Team

By Darryl J. Madden, Director, Ready Campaign

Being Ready starts with you! Taking steps now to prepare for disasters and emergencies of all types will go far in ensuring everyone’s safety. We have to work together, as a team, to ensure that individuals, families, and communities are prepared for emergencies and disasters. Important steps to take include:

  • Making a family emergency plan.
  • Getting an emergency supply kit.
  • Staying informed.
  • Working as a team to keep everyone safe.

This September, the seventh annual National Preparedness Month (NPM), join your community in preparing for emergencies and disasters of all types, and leading efforts to encourage the community as a whole to become more prepared.

Disasters not only devastate individuals and neighborhoods, but entire communities, including businesses of all sizes. As an employer in your community, having a business continuity plan can help protect your company, its employees and its infrastructure, maximizing your chances of recovery after an incident.

This year, the Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps, with support from Coalition Members across the nation, including a wide range of businesses and organizations, is focusing NPM on encouraging American individuals, families and businesses to take active steps toward becoming Ready. We must work together, as a team, to ensure that our families, businesses, neighborhoods, and communities are Ready.

Further, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s grassroots preparedness initiative, Citizen Corps, supports local opportunities for communities to become engaged in preparedness and resiliency by connecting government and civic leaders, non-governmental organizations, and other community-based programs through participation on their local Citizen Corps Council. Citizen Corps Councils support emergency operations planning, training and exercises, and volunteer opportunities that enhance community safety. Here are a few examples of how you and your watch group can encourage your community to become more involved:

  • Understand your audience
    Know what groups of people you are trying to reach. Are you targeting groups with additional needs, such as people with access and functional needs like seniors, people with disabilities and people who don’t speak English, who may need extra help in becoming prepared? Does your community have specific demographic groups, such as college-aged students? Knowing who is receiving your message is important to what you say and do.
  • Know the specific risks in your area
    According to the 2009 Citizen Corps National Survey, only 36 percent of individuals believed there was a high likelihood of a natural disaster to EVER happen in their community. Yet, all across the country there are examples of disasters, both natural and otherwise, that affect people daily. It’s not just hurricanes and earthquakes. Snowstorms, power outages, and even non-natural events such as terrorist attacks can affect anyone in the country. By knowing your risks and tailoring your preparedness message to those risks, you can help your community prepare for the most likely emergencies.
  • Make it meaningful
    Tailor your message to each particular audience, whether it’s individuals or families, employees, professionals in specific fields (such as education or medicine), young people, people with disabilities, or other audiences with access and functional needs. Reaching out to these audiences with messages that resonate with them will help engage them better.
  • Make it accessible
    Create messages and tools that are accessible to all audiences. Offer accessible PDFs to audiences with disabilities or those with access and functional needs. Ensure that Websites are 508 compliant. Offer closed and open captioning on videos and other visual material. Make meetings physically accessible to those with disabilities, and include programming and communications options that ensure accessibility to all. Visit Disability.gov for more information on accessibility.
  • Engage your audience
    Create activities that engage your particular audiences: offer preparedness activities and games, prepare checklists, run drills, or exercises. Include a “call to action” in your printed messaging to encourage people to take active steps toward preparedness.

Some Ideas to Engage your Community:

Ask your Home Owners Association or Neighborhood Civic Association to make emergency preparedness an agenda item during its September meeting. This is a great way to make sure there is an evacuation plan for your neighborhood and to communicate it to your neighbors. Invite neighbors who feel they may need a bit of extra help to let others know; make a commitment as a community to help one another.

Blog about it. Include articles or write-ups in your blog or community Web site encouraging your community to become prepared.

Distribute Family Emergency Plan Templates and Emergency Supply Checklists - You can download Family Emergency Plan templates and Emergency Supply Kit checklists at ready.gov.

Include Preparedness Activities at Community Events - Include emergency preparedness in existing community events by conducting demonstrations or handing out materials.

Consider local events already scheduled in your community during September such as state or county fairs, festivals, parades, or sporting events. This is an opportunity to have a table or booth set up to distribute emergency preparedness information, recruit volunteers, and/or share with the community what your organization is doing.

Host a Preparedness Fair for Your Community - During the event, you could demonstrate how to build an emergency kit using the Ready Emergency Supply Checklist and walk through how to develop a Family Emergency Plan by using Ready’s Family Emergency Plan Template. Both are available at ready.gov.

Invite local government officials, first responders, and/or your local Citizen Corps Council to give a brief emergency preparedness presentation at a community recreation center, library, or other family gathering place.

This would also be an opportunity to present the community’s emergency preparedness plan. The local first responder could discuss emergencies that could affect your area and the appropriate responses. You could also contact your local meteorologist to gauge his/her interest in participating.

For more information on NPM, or for help preparing, call 1-800-BE-READY, TTY 1-800-462-7585 or visit ready.gov where you can download or order free Ready publications and much more.