National Preparedness Month: Follow Your Emergency Plan and Keep Your Family Safe
September 16, 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 say that the best way to keep safe in an emergency is to have an emergency plan, and act on it.
- Pay attention to weather forecasts, and take all warnings seriously. (NOAA Weather Radios are a great tool to have in your home and business).
- As part of your planning, you found out how local officials would warn you about any emergency actions you should take. Follow their guidance to stay informed. That mioght include listening to a particular radio station, watching for notices at public places, or other methods.
- Pay attention to the news throughout the emergency, and make sure you get the whole story. In today’s world, there are thousand ways for rumors to spread. Stay with reputable news sources, and listen to or read the full story. Be sure not to pass on any information to neighbors and friends unless you know it to be true.
Carry out Your Plan:
- Check your supply of water, food, batteries, pet food, medications and other necessities. Hopefully, you’ve done your planning well and you have everything you need. If not, try to get any last-minute items before the last minute! Avoid those panic crushes in the store.
- If you lose power at your home, use alternate power and heating sources safely. NEVER run a generator inside your home. NEVER use alternate heat sources unless they are properly installed and vented. NEVER use outdoor grills inside your home.
- Don’t hesitate to call for help if you need it. No matter how well you prepare, unexpected things can happen. Use the emergency numbers you listed when you made your plan, and don’t wait to make the call.
- Make any phone calls brief, and do not stay on the Internet for long periods of time. Remember that many people will need to make emergency phone calls. Phone networks and cellular phone systems have limited capacity.
- Work as a team with your neighbors. Help each other. Are there people in your neighborhood who might need extra help?
- Talk with your children about what’s going on. Make sure they understand that they need to take steps to be safe, that it’s okay to be a little nervous or scared, but that things will be okay. Share your own feelings with them, at a level they can understand. Spend lots of time with them, playing, and reading, and listening to what they have to say – it’s good for all of you to talk. Artwork is also a great way for them to express how they’re feeling, or just to have fun!
- Take care of your health. Eat regular meals. Stay warm in the winter and drink plenty of fluids in summer. Pace yourself as you tackle clean-ups jobs, and don’t take on those jobs that are too much for you.
- Be aware that any disaster situation creates a lot of stress. When you are under stress, you need to eat properly and get enough rest. You might find that your mind wanders a little and it feels “hard to think”. This is natural. Give yourself a break! This stress reaction is a big reason for having a plan in advance – you can just act on your plan instead of trying to figure out what to do while the emergency is going on.
- Try to keep as regular a schedule as you can. A routine can be amazingly reassuring to adults as well as children. Even if it’s not your regular routine, you can establish a “special” schedule of when you’ll eat, do chores, etc. Involve your kids in planning activities for the day.
- Evacuate if advised to do so. When emergency officials advise an evacuation, it is because it is necessary to protect your life and safety. Gather up your “go” kit (those clothing, medical and entertainment supplies you’ve decided you would need if you had to leave your home). Don’t forget your important papers.
- Activate your “pet emergency plan”. If it is safe to leave your pets behind, be sure to leave adequate food and water. If you must evacuate them as well, have their identification, leashes and carriers ready. Take them to your pre-planned location – a friend’s home, a public emergency animal shelter, or a pet-friendly motel with you – along with food, water, medication and toys.
- If you need to spend time at an emergency shelter, are there things you or even your children can to do help others? Can you read children’s books, organize games, or just spend time talking with others who may be especially nervous? Helping others is a great way to feel better about your own situation.
These days, many people ask how they should respond in case of a terrorist attack. Here in Maine, we think a direct terrorist attack is very unlikely, but we can’t say it will never happen. In the unlikely event that something does happen here, follow your emergency plan. Official instructions become very important, because there might be special instructions for those in certain areas to follow. Be very sure to pay careful attention to the news and to instructions. Do not pass on any information to others unless you know it to be reliable and true.
Disasters or terrorist attacks happening elsewhere can be almost as frightening as something happening here. Follow your communications plan to get in touch with any family or friends who might be in the affected area. Make calls and Internet use brief, recognizing that many people need to make emergency calls.
A special note: Certainly watch the news to understand what is going on, but then turn it off. Repeated exposure to scenes of tragedy and destruction can be extremely depressing, and frightening for children.
“Weathering the storm” can mean being safe during a summer or winter storm, or getting through another kind of crisis. Having an emergency plan and knowing how to keep your family safe through any emergency will bring you to safe harbor. For more information on family and community preparedness, safety and volunteer opportunities, visit:
The Maine Emergency Management Agency: http://www.maine.gov/mema
The American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org
Maine Commission for Community Service/Citizen Corps: http://www.maineservicecommission.gov
The Maine Community Policing Institute Safety Center: http://www.be-safe.org/me/mcpi/