Each September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) emphasizes the importance of being prepared for disasters through National Preparedness Week. This week (Sept 13-19), we highlight the topic of Disasters & Emergencies.
The emergencies that affect Americans can be vastly different, depending on where and how you live. Tornadoes are a threat in the Great Plains, but earthquakes and wildfires are a threat in California. Likewise, an 80 mile per hour wind can be a life-threatening situation in a mobile home, but not so much in a traditionally built home.
Are you unsure of what disasters may affect you at any time? Here’s how to assess your own risks:
- What area of the country do you live in? Are you in always-warm Florida, or cold-winter Michigan? Florida has severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes, so you don’t need winter safety equipment in your car’s trunk. In Michigan, you do. Every place on the planet has something that is a natural threat. Go to your state or county’s emergency management website and learn about your local dangers. Live in a desert? Think heat, flash floods, and blinding dust storms. They can all kill.
- We know about risks from natural disasters like tornadoes and wildfires, but don’t forget man-made disasters. Do you live near a chemical refinery, a nuclear power plant, a busy highway or train track?
- If you live in an apartment, do you have a fire extinguisher? 80% of homes have one, but only 60% of apartments do. If you live in the country, how long would it take fire trucks to get to your house, and how would you fight or flee the fire until they arrive? If you live in a mobile home park, is there a community tornado shelter?
- What threat season is it right now? Tornadoes occur primarily in the spring. Lightning is a threat during the summer, when people are working or playing outdoors. Wildfires occur when grasses and trees dry out. Hurricane season is from June through November. Earthquake season runs from January 1 through December 31. Remember these dates and how they may affect you.
- In an emergency would you be able to quickly grab your medicines, some important papers, some reading glasses, cash or a credit/debit card? Would you have pet food and a water dish? Do you always keep your car keys in the exact same place? Does anyone in your home move slowly and need extra time and assistance?
It’s amazing how quickly some disasters occur. With hurricanes, we usually have a few days’ notice. Tornado warnings, on average, come out 13 minutes before the twister hits. But kitchen fires, train derailments, earthquakes, lightning, and many other disasters often happen with no warning. Get prepared now, because in the event of an emergency, those who are not prepared often become statistics.
For more information about this week’s topic, and all of National Preparedness Month, visit www.ready.gov/september.