BILOXI, Miss. -- Though November 30 marks the end of the 2006 hurricane season with no major storms hitting the Gulf Coast , emergency officials warn that the next disaster can strike at any time.
"There's no closed season on disasters," said Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer for the Mississippi Hurricane Katrina disaster. "The tornadoes that hit south central Mississippi a couple of weeks ago are a prime example."
The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) stress that planning and preparation can save lives and minimize losses.
"Emergency response teams may not be able to reach everyone immediately after a major disaster," said Mike Womack, MEMA interim director. "Every household needs to be prepared to provide for every member's basic needs for 72 hours."
In addition to severe weather, other potential disasters threaten. These include fire, hazardous material incidents, household chemical or fuel problems, and terrorism.
Being prepared not only can reduce the impact of a disaster, it can also alleviate the fear and anxiety that often accompany a tragic event, according to a FEMA guide to preparedness.
Three basic things are required of families and individuals to be prepared: assemble an emergency supply kit; make an emergency plan; be informed.
- Emergency supply kit-It should include non-perishable food, one gallon of water per person per day, tools and utensils, cash, flashlight, battery-powered radio or TV (with spare batteries), medications and other necessities.
- Emergency plan-Home plans should include two or more escape routes for everyone, how to communicate during and after a disaster, utility shutoff and safety, insurance and vital records, special needs, animal care and knowledge of safety skills.
- Be informed-Learn about potential threats including natural disasters, an attack or other emergencies, especially those for which your area may be at risk. Know shelter locations, evacuation routes, warning systems, and emergency plans for schools and workplaces.
To learn more, visit www.ready.gov, or call 1-800-BE-READY (1-800-237-3239) to receive planning materials by mail.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.