We've said it before, we're saying it now, and we will surely say it again here at the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security: Preparing is the most important and effective way to protect yourself and your family in times of adversity.
"Disasters" are wide-ranging in Vermont. We're not necessarily talking about a flood or hurricane; a snow storm, chemical spill, pandemic or other event can affect your everyday life and possibly leave you without needed supplies in your home. Weather events often impede your ability to get to the store, for example, and having some canned goods on hand could allow you to wait it out for a day or two before braving the conditions.
Buy an extra gallon of water the next time you're at the grocery store. Bring it home, store it away and don't drink it. You have started building your emergency preparedness kit.
September is National Preparedness Month, a nationwide and statewide effort to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and schools. Governor Peter Shumlin has proclaimed September Preparedness Month in Vermont and encourages Vermonters to take steps to prepare themselves for potential disasters and we thank him for his continued commitment to this effort.
Vermont DEMHS generally encourages people to have the following in their homes:
-- Two days water for each person in your home
-- Canned goods (and a manual can opener)
-- Battery powered radios to follow weather reports
-- Over the counter medications like pain relievers and fever reducers
-- Whatever else you may need if you are homebound without power for a couple of days.
We know this may be cost prohibitive for the average family to get all at once. The idea is to ease into it and pick up an item here and there; before you know it you'll be ready for anything.
Other ways to prepare during your normal routine include the next time you talk to a relative or friend from out of state, ask that person if he or she will be your emergency contact during an emergency. Your family may be separated during a disaster and unable to contact each other due to stress on local communication systems. Your out-of-state relative can be a central hub that everyone can call to coordinate reunification.
On a trip to the town office ask your town clerk or manager where the community shelter may be. Or ask a friend who is a volunteer firefighter as he or she would be likely to know. Make note and think about how you would get there if there was flooding in your community.
Make an effort to do something today. No matter how simple it is, every step you take makes you more prepared to handle an emergency situation down the road.
For more preparedness tips you can download or request a copy of the Vermont DEMHS Family Preparedness Workbook at http://vem.vermont.gov/preparedness. Other preparedness resources include www.redcross.org, www.ready.gov and www.weather.gov.
Joe Flynn is director of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. He has also has a long history in emergency response as a fire chief and deputy sheriff.