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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > National Preparedness Month: the First Step is a Plan

National Preparedness Month: the First Step is a Plan


September 9, 2004



AUGUSTA, MAINE – September is “National Preparedness Month”. The Maine Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross chapters in Maine, and the Maine Citizen Corps Council remind Mainers that with planning and some simple actions, all of us can “weather the storm.” Making an emergency plan is as easy as asking yourself some basic questions, and finding out the answers.

Q. What emergencies could happen to me? Some emergencies could happen to anyone, like a house fire. Here in Maine, our number one natural hazard is flooding. We know we have severe winter storms, and summer storms, including hurricanes, as well. Talk to local officials about the areas in your town that are vulnerable to flooding. Ask them about chemical facilities or transportation routes in your area. Then look at the location and structure of your home and assess what could happen to it.
Q. How can I get ready for these emergencies?

  • With your family, make an emergency plan that all of you will follow in any critical situation.
  • Plot two escape routes from every room of your house, and practice them.
  • Find the safest place in your home for any type of disaster.
  • If any member of your family has special needs, make sure you incorporate that in your plan.
  • Find out how local officials would warn you about a local emergency such as a chemical spill.
  • Make sure you have enough insurance coverage. Remember that homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage; special flood insurance is needed.
  • Make your home safer: do a home hazard hunt for items that can move, fall, break or cause a fire.
  • If you have a generator or an alternate source of heat, make sure it is installed correctly, and that all adult or teen family members know how to use it.
  • Consider taking a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
  • Find out where shelters are likely to be open in your area, and get familiar with the roads to get there.

Q. How would my family members communicate with each other, if we were separated in an emergency?

Set up an out-of-town contact that everyone would call if separated from each other. (Understand that phone calls in a major emergency should be brief, since cell phone and regular phone lines would be jammed). Make a game with your children about memorizing the phone numbers, and practice it often.

Q. What supplies would we need if we had to stay in our house for three days, perhaps with no power?

The basics are food, water, medicines, sanitary supplies, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, batteries. Food should be non-perishable items that can be prepared without electricity. They should also represent a well-rounded diet, and things your family likes to eat! As you shop over the next few months, pick up an extra jar of peanut butter, extra bread to throw in the freezer, extra canned fruit. Gather clean water jugs, fill them, and then begin to use them. Keep one in the fridge and use it for a cold drink. Then, when it’s empty, fill it and put it at “the end of the line”.

Q. What supplies would we need if we had to leave our home?

A “Go” kit (what you’d need if you had to go) can include medications, a change of clothes, toys and diapers and books for little ones. Also, think about a way to bring important papers (such as insurance policies, wills, birth certificates, etc.) with you, or store a copy of them at your workplace, or with a friend or relative.

Q. What would we do about our pets if we needed to leave?

Pets are not allowed in public shelters, although some communities have planned special “pet shelters” in case of a major disaster. Check with your town, and then make plans for your pets accordingly. Develop a “Go” kit for your pets, as well. Include food and water, medications, vaccination records and special toys. Having the proper collar, tags, leashes and carriers will make it much easier to transport pets.

Q. What should I do after this plan is done?

  • Put emergency phone numbers by each phone, and keep a copy in your wallet or car.
  • Show teens and adults how and when to turn off the utilities.
  • Practice! Do evacuation drills, and telephone drills – make it a game with your kids but also make sure they understand that it could really happen.
  • Every month, test your smoke alarms.
  • Every 6 months: Go over Family Disaster Plan and do escape drills. Quiz your children about important information.
  • Every year: Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

These days, people often ask how to prepare for a terrorist attack. Here in Maine, we think a direct terrorist attack is unlikely, but we can’t say it would never happen. Your emergency plan will serve you in that sort of an emergency just as it will in a winter storm or flood. For more information on family and community preparedness, safety and volunteer opportunities, visit:

The Maine Emergency Management Agency: The American Red Cross: Maine Commission for Community Service/Citizen Corps: The Maine Community Policing Institute Safety Center:




Last update: 07/20/10