Friday, September 10, 2010

National Preparedness Month

Tropical Storm Hermine
September is National Preparedness Month, and right on schedule, our planet demonstrated how important it is to Have a Plan. On Tuesday, Sept. 7, just before 11 a.m., warning systems advised the College Station locations of the Texas A&M University System of a possible tornado in south College Station, and ordered everyone to seek shelter immediately. Texas A&M also activated its Code Maroon alert system, moving over 70,000 students, faculty and staff to interior stairwells and basements. I also know that throughout the area, parents began calling and texting schools, worried about their children.
I was reminded that even with the best training and planning, there can be confusion at the onset of an emergency, further emphasizing the importance of having a plan for you, your family and your workplace. 

There are three important steps we can all take to be prepared for an emergency.

Make a Plan

Because your family may not be together in an emergency, it’s important to plan how you’ll contact each other, and how to get back together.

When thinking about communicating during an emergency: Have an out-of town contact. Many times long-distance communications work when local communications have failed.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows that contact number and has a cell phone, coins or a pre-paid phone card to make the call.
  • Have some that are too young to remember the number? Make sure that your children’s school or daycare has your information as well. Find out what their procedure is for emergencies. Make sure that you are on their emergency list, whether it is by phone, e-mail or text, so that you are informed. Plus, find out where they will post information for early pickup--local television station? Radio? Not all schools have a plan in place about how to contact parents, so be proactive.
  • Make text-messaging an important tool. Many times text messages will get through when phone calls can’t. Texting is new to many. Have your children teach you how to text.
  • Identify and use your local emergency alert systems. Although many towns still have siren systems, family members should subscribe to any emergency alert system available. Public alert certified weather radios can be purchased locally or online and can be kept in your home. Texas A&M has a Code Maroon system which uses SMS to notify students, faculty and staff of emergencies affecting the flagship campus. Twitter also has become an alert system lately, with the ability to transmit alerts to mobile devices from Code Maroon, as well as police departments, fire departments, and other government organizations.
Visit TEEX’s Emergency Preparedness Webpage for more information on planning and links to the Online Family Emergency Planning Tool.

Have a Basic Emergency Supply Kit

It’s very important to have the supplies to take care of your family for a short time after an emergency event. First and foremost, the Basic Emergency Supply Kit must have the basics for human survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth. With those items taken care of, we can add further supplies for communication and comfort.

Use common sense. Canned goods require a can opener, and most electronics require batteries. Cars and generators don’t run well without fuel. Assess each item to make sure you have an adequate supply of what it takes to run it, and the ancillary tools necessary to make the items functional.
Think. It’s important that everyone THINK about what’s essential for them, and incorporate those items into their emergency kit.

Purchasing the supplies for a basic kit costs about $130. You can find a link to a complete list of items for your Basic Emergency Supply Kit at TEEX’s Emergency Preparedness Webage, or read below how to enter to win a kit before this weekend’s Texas A&M - Louisiana Tech football game!

Members of Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) will be in the Aggie Fan Zone on the north end of Kyle Field beginning at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. There, you can meet the team’s K-9 rescue dogs and check out one of the steel beams recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. See many tools of the trade, special equipment and rescue cameras. TX-TF1 will also have commemorative dog tags available for the first 3,000 visitors, and kids can pick up a collectible trading card about one of the search and rescue canines. Everyone who stops by can also enter to win an Emergency Preparedness Kit!

As part of First Responders Day, Texas A&M University has chosen this game to honor current and former members of the Task Force, as well as all first responders. Recently returned from mobilization to help local jurisdictions that were impacted by the flooding associated with Tropical Storm Hermine, TX-TF1 members will take the field before the game for an awards presentation. Following the ceremony, Task Force members and their families will sit together to enjoy some great Aggie football.

Be Informed

Different emergencies require different responses. For example, a fire calls for building evacuation, while a tornado may call for people to remain in the structure for shelter. It is critical to understand potential emergencies and the appropriate response.

Here is an extensive, but not all-inclusive, list of potential disasters, as well as actions you can take to stay safe. A list of most likely disasters may include:
BlackoutsChemical Threat
Extreme HeatFires
Influenza PandemicLandslide and Debris Flow (Mudslide)
Nuclear ThreatRadiation Threat
WildfiresWinter Storms and Extreme Cold

Links for all of the information, as well as American Red Cross shelter information and other useful preparedness links can be found on TEEX’s Emergency Preparedness Webpage.

Watch for next week’s TEEXblog, where I’ll write about volunteer opportunities for citizens to assist with training emergency responders at TEEX’s Disaster City.

Sam White is a communications specialist and blogger for the Texas Engineering Extension Service and welcomes your comments. Know of something interesting happening at TEEX? Please submit blog ideas

1 comment:

Robert said...

This was a fantastic summary for national preparedness month Sam! Also thank you for mentioning the benefits of text messaging, texting during an emergency can be a great way to efficiently share information, whether its between family members or public safety officials and the community. My company Globaltel Media has customized our SMS messaging service for these types of emergency situations. From alerting fellow public safety officials (within a specific agency) of an in-process situation to providing community alerts on a massive scale, the potential for SMS benefiting emergency personnel and community members alike is exponential. Thanks again for the article.