MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Hurricane preparedness is not the responsibility of one agency, community, group or people, but rather a collective effort shared by all who are affected by disastrous storms. The responsibility to be prepared begins with the individual and family. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency encourage all families to take part in planning for future disasters, because when it comes to being ready for the upcoming hurricane season, there is no substitute for knowing how to keep your family safe.
"State emergency personnel will respond quickly to the scene of a disaster, but all Alabamians should be prepared when a hurricane arrives," said State Coordinating Officer Bruce Baughman. "A family that plans ahead will be better prepared before, during, and after a hurricane."
While local, state and federal officials will respond quickly to the scene of a disaster, they cannot help every individual or family right away. Response time may depend on damage to roads and infrastructure, and if basic services like water, electricity or telephones are unavailable, your family should be prepared for self sufficiency for at least seventy-two hours. What does self sufficiency after a disaster mean? The following are points to consider for your family's safety:
- Be informed: Know vital information about evacuation routes, local and state emergency communication, and the location of emergency shelters.
- Include your family: Explain to all members of your family what actions local and state officials are taking to protect its citizens. Include children in discussions, and make sure they understand what to do if they become separated from you. Have an "out-of-town" contact (such as a relative) that everyone will contact after the disaster.
- Have a plan: Your plan should include information for your out-of-town contact, meeting locations, and emergency services. A sample form for recording this information can be found at www.ready.gov or at www.redcross.org/contactcard. Teach your children how to call the emergency phone numbers and when it is appropriate to do so. Be sure each family member has a copy of your communication plan and post it near your telephone for use in an emergency.
- Have supplies: Essential items to have: first aid kit (including prescription medicines), food and water for at least 72 hours, extra clothing and blankets, flashlights and extra batteries. Consider also a NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries, a whistle to signal for help, a camp stove with extra fuel, foldable ladders for second-story escape in a fire, and photocopies of credit and identification cards.
- Heed warnings: If a warning is issued, follow your plan. If an evacuation order is issued, don't delay leaving.
"The better prepared each family is when a hurricane hits, the more local, state and federal agencies will be able to assist in the response effort," said Michael Bolch, Federal Coordinating Officer.
FEMA's Community and Family Preparedness Program and American Red Cross Community Disaster Education are nationwide efforts to help people prepare for disasters of all types. For more information, please contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter. Go online for more about preparing for hurricanes: www.fema.gov or www.ready.gov.