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Be Disaster Aware–Take Action to Prepare!

By Mike Spranger, PhD, Community Development Specialist, University of Florida IFAS Extension
Reviewed by Randy Cantrell, PhD, Housing & Community Development Specialist, University of Florida IFAS Extension
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This September is the tenth anniversary of National Preparedness Month, coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This annual campaign encourages us to take action so we are better prepared for emergencies and disasters. This year’s theme is “Be disaster aware, take action to prepare!”

Florida has a number of natural hazards that we should prepare for. These include hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, tornadoes, lightning, and wildfires. Even though we have had an uneventful hurricane season thus far in 2014, we need to remember that the “season” lasts until November 30th. So, it’s no time to get complacent.

Why is it important that you and members of your household prepare for emergencies and disasters? Because they sometimes occur unexpectedly. First responders such as police, fire, and rescue personnel may not always be able to personally respond to you quickly in times of need, so you may be on your own for several hours or several days. This means that you must be able and willing to care for yourself and others until help arrives. Also, the more prepared people are, the more quickly a community can recover after a  disaster or emergency and return to full function.

FEMA recommends you prepare for a minimum of three days without electricity, water, and access to normal conveniences such as supermarkets, gas stations and ATMs. They also suggest you take the following steps to be prepared.

  1. Stay Informed.  Information is available from many federal, state, and local resources. Learn what to do before, during and after an emergency.
  1. Make a Plan.  Discuss, agree on, and document a household emergency plan. Also, talking with neighbors, colleagues and others can lead to increased community resilience.
  1. Build a Kit: Keep enough emergency supplies – water, nonperishable food, first aid kit, prescriptions, flashlight, cash, battery-powered radio, and batteries – on hand to sustain you and your household members for at least three days.
  1. Get Involved:  FEMA supports the “whole community” concept where we all participate in activities to make our families, homes and communities safer from risks and threats. The “whole community” consists of volunteers, a trained and informed public, and the support of emergency-response agencies.

For more information on these topics, please see Ready.gov. UF IFAS Extension also has developed a number of educational materials on disaster planning and recovery, available at http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/disaster_prep. UF-IFAS Extension is also a partner in a national preparedness campaign through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), which has many excellent resources available.

(Photo credit: coastal storms by Florida Sea Grant. CC BY 2.0. Cropped.)

References:

Berns-Cadle. H., et al. (2013). Florida homeowners’ handbook to prepare for natural hazards. Gainesville, FL.  University of Florida IFAS Extension.

Extension Disaster Education network (2014). Retrieved from http://eden.lsu.edu

Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2104). 2014 National Preparedness Month. Retrieved from http://www.ready.gov/september

University of Florida IFAS Extension   Disaster Prep and Recovery. Retrieved from http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/disaster_prep