Disaster Preparedness is Not Seasonal but Year-Round

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Deanne Criswell.

By FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell 

November 30th marks the official end to the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which produced 21 named storms, making it the third-most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. As a result of climate change, the novelty of breaking records has lost its weight; we’ve become desensitized to it, because we’re doing it every year.

Hurricanes are occurring before and after the traditional seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific; fire seasons in the West are now considered fire years, and floods are impacting communities not previously prone to flooding. As climate change induces more frequent and farther-reaching weather events, it’s more important than ever to prepare.

The 2020 FEMA National Household Survey found that only 48% of American households have disaster preparedness plans. This statistic underscores a common belief by many; that their families and homes are immune from the impacts of a disaster, and so they fail to make plans until it is too late. However, the fact is that every community, every neighborhood is vulnerable to experiencing severe weather. So ultimately, how well you prepare for a disaster today can significantly influence your ability to recover tomorrow. 

This past year, I traveled around the country and observed flooded streets and extensive debris in places like LaFourche, Terrebonne and St. Charles Parish, listened to heartbreaking stories of families who lost everything to wildfires, and saw the remnants of homes torn apart by tornadoes that touched down in New Jersey as Hurricane Ida approached. I was pained to see the devastation and it strengthened my resolve that emergency preparedness cannot only be seasonal and must be a year-round activity.

These changes in weather patterns require changes in our behavior. Waiting until moments before a disaster strikes is too late, as evidenced by long lines at gas stations, empty shelves at supermarkets, and miles of congested traffic before a storm. Preparations do not have to be expensive or time consuming, and small efforts can save lives. I urge you to consider taking these small steps:

  • Make a Plan –Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area. Know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.
  • Know Your Evacuation Route – Get accustomed to alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area.
  • Follow Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) –These are short emergency messages from alerting authorities delivered to your mobile device. Check your mobile device settings to ensure that you are receiving emergency alert messages.

Ready.gov has a suite of tools and educational resources to help you build a disaster kit, create a family communication plan, and learn about other steps you can take to prepare. The time for action is now while you have time and clarity-of-mind to gather the necessary information, resources, and supplies.

Individual preparedness is only one part of being ready for a disaster. FEMA will continue partnering with communities and state agencies to support mitigation activities and to ensure communities are strengthened to better withstand future catastrophic weather events. We will also continue to partner with local communities to set up shelters; broadcast communications that account for individuals who are blind, deaf, or hard of hearing; translate emergency lifesaving information into languages that are accessible by all Americans; and provide individual and public assistance to those who need help after a disaster.

Our world is evolving. Weather events that were unfathomable 20 years ago are the new normal and an unprecedented global pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives. Messages of preparedness and protection are everywhere, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all that we need to do.

So, my ask of you is this: do one small thing today. Take one action that contributes to your readiness and encourage others to do the same.

Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.

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Last updated November 30, 2021