Preparing your family and your off-base community for emergencies
By Gwen Camp, Director of Individual and Community Preparedness for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
We have all asked ourselves this question: “What if?” “What if there’s an earthquake?” “What if it floods?” “What if one of this summer’s wildfires comes a little too close to home?” “What if” is a smart question to ask—as long as the person asking it answers with a solution. Otherwise, without preparation “what if” can quickly become “what now?”
As a military spouse, you’re used to dealing with the unexpected—deployments on short notice and long-term separation. You have dealt with real hardships as a family already. But what if a natural disaster like a flood, tornado, or earthquake were to strike? What about your children’s schools, your workplace, or your place of worship? Would you and your family be prepared? FEMA research shows that for nearly 60 percent of all Americans—civilian and military—the answer is no.
The good news is that preparing your family—and even your community—is easy.
America’s PrepareAthon!SM is a movement focused on activating families, businesses, schools, and houses of worship to prepare for emergencies through hazard-specific group discussions, drills, and exercises. Research shows that families who regularly practice preparedness drills are better equipped in the face of emergency.
America’s PrepareAthon! has free resources you can download at ready.gov/prepare. The site includes easy-to-use resources for six natural hazards: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, and winter storm. If you want to take an active role in preparing your house of worship, children’s schools, or workplace by planning drills and events, there are customizable promotional materials, tabletop exercise materials, checklists, and anything else you need to get started.
Some questions to start with:
- How will I get information about disasters?
- How are alerts sent out?
- Does our school, workplace, or house of worship use phone lists or text messaging?
- Does the city or county send out emergency alerts?
- Are there state-based weather alerts I should know about?
- Do we have what we need in case of disaster?
- Do we have essential items like water, prescription medicine, flashlights, and batteries?
- Are on-site emergency kits available and accessible?
The strengths of military spouses individually and collectively are a real asset to the off-base community too. In addition to asking questions that help you and your family prepare, you may want to ask your children’s schools, your house of worship, your off-base employer, or local businesses to participate in a communitywide preparedness drill.
Visit ready.gov/prepare to learn about the different types of preparedness drills and actions for the hazards that are most relevant for your area.
It can make all the difference between asking “what if” and preparing now so you know what to do in the event of a disaster.
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