Oliver: Best to be prepared for whatever happens

On this date 12 years ago, the unthinkable happened.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., were horrific in their suddenness and scope.

They also were a startling wake-up call for a lot of us that anything can happen anywhere.

In the years since, disasters of all kinds have struck, often without warning.

Who can forget the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the tornadoes that struck Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Superstorm Sandy?

And that list, sadly, is far from complete.

September is National Preparedness Month for a reason.

Created nine years ago, the observance is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It aims to educate you and me about what we need to do be ready for emergencies of all kinds, whether they are natural or man-made.

One need only remember that horrible train accident in July in Canada to know that even accidents can bring catastrophic consequences. A train crash in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, left 15 people dead and an explosion destroyed a good portion of the town 130 miles east of Montreal.

So what do we need to do to prepare?

1. Be informed: Knowing the types of disasters that could strike here is a good place to start. Safety is the main thing no matter what the incident, though some might require sheltering in place while others might call for an evacuation. Either way, a family communications plan is key, so that family members know where they will meet and whom they should call (both in the area and out of state) in the event of an emergency.

2. Make a plan: If a disaster strikes when the family is not together, does everyone know how they will get to a safe place, how they will contact one another, and how and where they will reunite? It’s also a good idea to ask about the emergency plans of the places where family members spend the most time – schools and day-care centers, workplaces, places of worship, commuting, etc. If those places don’t have emergency plans, FEMA suggests that we help them come up with them.

3. Build a kit: FEMA suggests that families have enough food, water and supplies on hand to go for at least 72 hours. Emergency crews might not be able to reach us right away, and supplies might not be available for purchase in the event of an evacuation. Also, electricity, gas, water and phone service might be out for days or longer, so our supply kits should account for that as well.

A number of websites provide helpful information about how families can make their plans and build their kits:

• FEMA: ready.gov

• American Red Cross: redcross.org

• Gear Up Get Ready: gearupgetready.org

• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: noaa.gov

In these volatile times, there’s no telling what might happen. 

So it probably can’t hurt to follow the Boy Scout slogan to “Be prepared.”

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at joliver@shawmedia.com.

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