This is a good time to reflect on the lives lost on that fateful day and also to focus on helping individuals, the community and businesses prepare for disasters.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Bradley County EMA are offering their wholehearted support of National Preparedness Month. They recognize that not all disasters come in the form of terrorism.
Recent wildfires in the West, the upcoming hurricane season, along with deadly tornadoes and flooding in the past few years are reminders that disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. National, state and local governments, as well as individuals, must not wait until disaster strikes to think about being prepared.
As county mayor, I am very proud of the way our county and city emergency responders reacted when the April storms in 2011 created a state of emergency in Bradley County. They were obviously prepared, which was due to their high level of training and participation in numerous disaster scenarios through the years. When the storms hit they were ready.
Being prepared is also the responsibility of the individual citizen, and an important aspect of individual preparedness is being informed. Facing difficulties and dangers can best be handled when you know what to do and how to do it. This can help in reducing damage and even the loss of life.
The question some may ask is, "Where do I start?”
Only 44 percent of Americans have a household emergency plan, so start there. Sit down with your family and explain how important their safety is to you. Then outline several areas that each one should be aware of. For example, locate a safe room or the safest area in your home should a tornado warning be sounded.
In some circumstances, the safest place may not be your home but somewhere in your community, such as the three new “safe rooms” in the new county fire halls. Know the safest escape routes from your home and have a pre-appointed place to meet if your family gets separated during a disaster.
Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911. It is also a good idea to have an out-of-state family member or friend as a family contact so all your family members have a single point of contact.
FEMA guidelines also suggest that individual emergency preparedness should include storing a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water. You should also consider taking CPR and emergency preparedness classes available through the Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross.
One of the issues that arose in the aftermath of the April 27 storms was the number of lost household pets. As you draw up a household emergency plan, it would be good to include a plan for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate. This may seem frivolous or even humorous when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. But when the house is falling around you during a tornado you’ll be glad you took time to prepare.
During the 2011 storms, our local emergency responders were quick to locate several citizens who were trapped and offer emergency shelter to those who needed it. However, it is good to prepare for the worst-case scenario. It could take hours or possibly days before help reaches you. It depends upon the disaster. Having your own food, water, first aid and other supplies in sufficient quantity could be the difference between life and death.
National Preparedness Month is a time to turn awareness into action. Take the necessary steps to ensure that your home, workplace and community are prepared for disasters and emergencies of all kinds.