By Jeff Byard and Michael Byrne
April’s tornadoes reminded us the unthinkable can happen. The event cost too many lives, created about 10 million cubic yards of debris, and destroyed or damaged homes, schools and businesses across two-thirds of Alabama.
It may be impossible to determine when the next devastating disaster will occur, but there are ways to prepare for it. September is National Preparedness Month, a nationwide campaign that stresses emergency preparedness awareness. This campaign encourages Americans to take simple steps to protect themselves and their families from emergencies and disasters.
Take time during National Preparedness Month to ensure you and your family are better protected. It is easier than you may think.
Prepare an emergency supply kit that contains a three-day supply of food and water, a flashlight, a battery powered radio, extra batteries and medical supplies. Make a plan on how you will contact your family members after a disaster and how you will get back together. Learn about potential emergencies that can happen to your community and the appropriate way to respond to them. A full disaster preparedness strategy can be found online at www.ready.gov.
The best preparedness begins at home. National Preparedness Month is a great opportunity to make your home safer and stronger.
You can exceed current building codes to make your home safer from tornado devastation and potentially save lives. Consider constructing a safe room in your home. Safe rooms provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge and be provided a high level of protection during windstorms.
If you are building a home, you can employ construction methods to make it safer and more storm resistant. This includes connectors, straps and ties at key joints that can transfer high wind pressure from your home’s roof down to its foundation.
We understand applying these methods may cost more money, but we can think of nothing wiser than to invest in the safety of you and your family. These can go a long way to protect you and your loved ones the next time a tornado comes. Contact your local emergency management office for further information on safe rooms and stronger home construction techniques. Contact information for your local office can be found online at ema.alabama.gov.
There are other simple steps you can use not just in tornadoes, but in other disaster events.
Disasters begin and end locally. Join the disaster response team and join a volunteer program that helps communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.
Alabama businesses, organizations and individuals can promote emergency preparedness in their communities by joining the National Preparedness Month Coalition. They can join for free online at www.community.fema.gov. Their participation can be neither too big nor too small.
As we saw in April, disasters can be unexpected. Take National Preparedness Month to get ready for the next time the unpredictable happens. You can save the most important lives in the world -- yours and your loved ones.
Jeff Byard is the Alabama Emergency Management Agency’s state coordinating officer of recovery efforts for the spring tornadoes, and Michael Byrne is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s federal coordinating officer for the spring tornadoes.