A time to remember, a time to prepare

The calendar has rolled around to September again, which means it’s National Preparedness Month. The theme for 2011 is “A Time to Remember, A Time to Prepare.”

National Preparedness Month is observed at this time each year as a commemoration of the events of September 11, 2001. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the day our world changed, when we learned that disaster could strike without warning from a clear blue sky.

In the years since that awful day, we have not suffered another similar attack. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared. Alaska’s distance from large population centers and major terrorist targets can create a sense of security. However, we remain extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, and our isolation means that help from outside the affected area can be far away and slow to arrive.

That is why being prepared to take care of ourselves is so important. Alaskans pride ourselves on self-sufficiency. Why not observe National Preparedness Month by reviewing your own readiness for emergencies, and taking steps to improve your disaster preparedness?

The first step is to get a kit. Have an emergency kit in an accessible location that contains enough food, water, clothing and other emergency supplies to provide for your family. And keep a “go bag” ready for each person as well. This is a backpack that contains the basic essentials you will need in case you are faced with a situation, such as an earthquake or fire, that requires you to evacuate your home immediately. For a list of suggested items, you can visit www.ready.gov. or www.72hours.org. Keep in mind that this list is designed for the Lower 48, where 72 hours worth of supplies is generally adequate. In Alaska, our extra isolation means we should prepare to be on our own for seven days at minimum.

Next, develop a plan. Decide where your family will meet in case of a disaster. How will you contact each other if separated? Have contingencies for different times of day and days of the week. Know how you will deal with pets. Have an out-of-area friend or relative who is unlikely to be affected by the emergency and can act as a point of contact for you. www.ready.gov also has a planning tool and excellent resources that can take you step-by-step through preparing a family emergency plan.

Finally, stay informed. Know what hazards are most likely to affect your family, and what resources exist for dealing with them. When an emergency occurs, have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio on hand so you can know what’s happening.

Disasters don’t always strike out of a clear blue sky. Some, like severe storms and flooding, we may have warnings of ahead of time. Others, like earthquakes, will continue to catch us by surprise. But we needn’t be caught unprepared.

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