“Make a Plan” for Preparedness Month

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

September is designated as National Preparedness Month by the US Department of Homeland Security in an effort to promote family and community disaster planning and bring the importance of planning to the forefront.

Jerome McCalvin, Emergency Manager for the City of Marlow, is spearheading a campaign to help Marlow residents prepare for disaster.

“If we weren’t prepared for what-all has happened in 2020, we won’t be prepared for anything else that could happen,” McCalvin said. “Everyone’s got to think about the potential disasters and start making a plan for whatever comes our way.”

The theme of National Preparedness Month for 2020 is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” Each week during the month of September, the Department of Homeland Security offers information to help families and communities prepare for a disaster; the first week’s task is to make a plan.

“Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area,” advises DHS. “Know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find.”

DHS advises that families should discuss the following questions to begin the planning process:

1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?

Marlow Residents will benefit from signing up for the NIXLE system, which sends updates regarding weather and other emergencies 24 hours a day. Anyone may sign up for the NIXLE system by sending a text message of 73055 to the number 888777.

2. What is my shelter plan?

Shelter plans should include contingencies for Stay-at-Home sheltering, going to a mass care shelter, or sheltering in place.

3. What is my family/household communication plan?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in the event of a disaster, it may be better to send text messages rather than attempting to make phone calls due to texts requiring less bandwidth than voice calls do. Text messages may also save and send automatically when service becomes available.

4. Do I need to update my emergency preparedness kit?

Being prepared means having adequate food, water, medications, and other supplies to last several days. For a detailed list of what an emergency preparedness kit should include, visit ready.gov/kit.

5. Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and update emergency plans due to Coronavirus.

DHS recommends having cloth face coverings for everyone over 2 years old, as well as cleaning supplies and disinfectants.

Once those five questions are addressed, the next step is considering specific household needs, such as dietary needs, child care, disabilities, pets and service animals, and responsibilities for assisting others. “Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance,” advises DHS.

Step 3 is filling out a family emergency plan. DHS has one available to download and fill out or use as a guide for creating one; visit ready.cov/plan.

The final step in disaster planning is practicing the plan with everyone in the household. Even the best-laid plans should be practiced and revisited regularly in order to ensure that everyone understands, especially if family circumstances change.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four-part series for the month of September.