National Preparedness Month was begun over a decade ago and is designed to encourage people to take some basic steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and communities. Held in September, this month coincides as the midway point of the July through November hurricane season. National Preparedness Month is also sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign.


It encourages families to be prepared for various types of emergencies, including everything from natural disasters to potential terrorist attacks. The best time to take preventive efforts is before there’s a problem, to be proactive instead of reactive, so the campaign encourages families to create a family emergency plan.


Include contingencies in your plan for what to do if everyone is not together at the time of the disaster. Consider having an out-of-state contact for which everyone has the number. Sometimes it is easier, in times of a massive local crisis, to reach someone long distance than someone across town. It’s also important to know how your local community plans to notify you in case of a widespread disaster. Get informed about whether special sirens are used or certain radio and TV stations are selected for broadcasting updates. Talk to your Towne Lake neighbors about the best way to work together in the unlikely event of a massive emergency.


Prepare for the basics of survival first by creating a basic emergency supply kit now. Include such items as one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days; at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food; battery-powered radio and extra batteries; flashlights; inexpensive dust masks to help filter contaminated air; plastic sheeting and duct tape; pet food and water for any pets; hand wipes; hand sanitizer; garbage bags; a wrench or pliers to shut off utilities; a whistle or other loud device to signal for help; sleeping bags or blankets; first aid supplies; and cash. Be sure to grab any important prescription medicines as well because it may be difficult to impossible to get a replacement refill in the coming days, depending on the severity of the disaster.


It’s also a good idea to include copies of important documents and phone numbers such as insurance policies, bank accounts, credit card numbers and contact information, doctor’s numbers, medical ID cards and contact information for key family members. These should be stored in some type of waterproof container. You could also save information securely in the cloud online at someplace like Dropbox.com.


Several apps exist to keep you informed about weather, breaking news, FEMA updates, etc. A few useful apps include:


Shelter Finder This app from the American Red Cross displays current shelter information from the National Shelter System, which is updated every 30 minutes. The app maps locations across the U.S., and includes details such as the capacity of the shelter and current population, the associated disaster event and the specific shelter address and location.


Pocket First Aid & CPR This app from the American Heart Association provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s smartphone. The most recent update features dozens of videos and high-resolution illustrations, reorganized content to make it easier to find help in an emergency and an improved user experience.


Know Your Plan This app features property protection guidance from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Know Your Plan contains disaster preparedness checklists for hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, severe winter weather and evacuations. It also gives you the option of setting up reminders to complete a task, tracking your progress and customizing and sharing checklists with your social network.


Just beware of becoming too dependent on your cell phones for very long in a disaster situation. There may not be a way to charge phones for days, so use these devices sparingly. Your local tower could be down, making for weak or spotty coverage. IPads tend to keep their charge for a longer period of time (providing you’re not playing games or watching a lot of videos) and can allow you access to apps, social media networks, data you have stored online, email, etc.


Once you have your family on the same page for what to do in a major emergency and where to meet, check into whether emergency plans exist in other places your family members frequent—workplaces, daycare, each child’s Cherokee County school. If one does not exist, encourage the creation of a plan or volunteer to work with them to put a contingency plan in place.


More information can be found at the Ready Campaign’s web site, www.ready.gov .Or you can follow them on Facebook for regular updates at https://www.facebook.com/readygov.


We sincerely hope you will never have the need to use your disaster preparedness plan in Cherokee County. No one wants to experience natural or man-made disasters. A little advance preparation and communication among all family members, however, can go a long way in easing that critical time period in the days following a disaster.


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