Guest blog: Preparedness makes a difference

Today’s guest blog is by Marcela Campoli, MHA, a Washington, D.C.-area business consultant. She has experience in emergency preparedness and working with health promoters in community health and prevention. Campoli is a member of APHA’s Equal Health Opportunity Committee.

Preparedness can be the difference between life and death in a disaster. However, it’s not always easy to put that idea into practice, especially in the daily course of everyday activities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests that you:

  • Be informed about hazards and emergencies that may affect you and your family and stay informed: We live in communities that we chose for their safety, for neighbors, schools and for many other reasons. Yet we live in a globalized world where hazards can reach us in many and various ways, including hazardous material spills, plane crashes and train derailments. You need to be aware of the risks. Keep track of what is happening at the community and global level through the news. 
  • Develop an emergency plan: As the saying goes "Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.” But would you think of a tsunami if you don’t live near the sea? Your plan should include all possible emergencies that may affect some or all family members. The list can begin with disasters that you have already been exposed to directly or indirectly in the past — winter snow storms, summer hurricanes, summer heat waves or floods.

Once you’ve identified your risks, write down a plan with specific steps to follow in each situation. Inform all who may be involved, including family members and children’s teachers.

  • Collect and assemble a disaster supply kit: Buying supplies after warning signs of a disaster occur quickly becomes a nightmare. So it is important to have a store of nonperishable food, bottled water, lanterns, radios, sleeping bags, weather-appropriate clothing and other family items, such as medicine. Pets are part of the family, so it’s necessary to have supplies for them, too.

It’s also important to keep a backpack — waterproof if possible — in your car with some of the same items mentioned above. Remember important documents and money. Make a list of additional things that need to be collected at the last minute.

  • Know where to seek shelter from all types of hazards: Make a list of potential shelters to turn to in the neighborhood or community. Know at least two phone numbers and addresses of family and friends out of state in case of an evacuation. Consider what transportation you would use. 
  • Identify warning systems and evacuation routes in your community: Sign up to get alert text messages on your cellphone and via email. Many local governments offer such services for free. Walk through your neighborhood and identify emergency routes that would facilitate evacuation. 
  • Include information from your community and schools in your preparedness plan. Set a meeting place and time where your family can meet up to make the evacuation together easier.
  • Practice and maintain your plan: It’s critical to involve your kids in the plan to determine if the plan works. Correct and actions and learn how to react naturally during an emergency. Remember that in an emergency, you need to stay calm. 

Preparedness can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. It’s important to develop a culture of preparedness among the members of your family and community. This must be a daily activity.

For more information on preparing for disasters, check out our Get Ready fact sheets.  Read this post in Spanish on APHA’s Get Ready Blog.

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