Tropical Storm Irene is three years behind us. Its impact is still being felt by many and will for years to come, but Vermont has come a long way in its recovery and we are thankful for our continuing progress.
Irene and other damaging storms show us the importance of being ready for anything. Vermont is susceptible to a number of disasters: floods, blizzards, chemical spills, cyber-attack, pandemic, and other events. The best way to mitigate the impact of those incidents is to simply be ready.
September is preparedness month in Vermont and nationwide. It's a time to figure out what you need to do ahead of time to ensure the safety of your family should an incident occur close to home or interrupt life in another way. There are simple ways to prepare, and further, more involved steps you can take down the road.
Information is your greatest tool in any disaster or weather event. Vermont Alert allows you to receive weather, transportation, or other incident updates via text, e-mail, or phone for the areas where you live and work. You select what alerts you want and the areas for which the alerts are issued. Please visit http://vtalert.gov to sign up for a free account.
Weather events often impede your ability to get to the store and having some canned goods and other necessities 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.
The Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security 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 during your weekly trip to the grocery store.
Other ways to prepare during your normal routine:
-- 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 VT 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 been working in emergency response for several years as a fire chief and deputy sheriff; he has plenty of bottled water in his home.