September is National Preparedness Month, which certainly does not cause parades and festivals from communities around the country — but it is something that we should not just push aside lightly. The tragedy that occurred in the United States on September 11th, 2001, was recently commemorated by thousands of bikers at the 911 Memorial Ride. We look back, but we also should look forward and consider whether we are truly ready for an emergency, no matter how it occurs.
This was the impetus behind declaring the first National Preparedness Month in 2004. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security, National Preparedness Month encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities.
Yes, this sounds good for the country, but what does this have to do with us here? Well, in Lycoming County, we have 2,200 miles of streams and waterways, and they have flooded on numerous occasions. We also have had nasty winter storms, utility interruptions, transportation accidents, severe weather events such as thunderstorms, hailstorms, and, yes, even tornados.
Kelly Robinson, coordinator for the Lycoming County Emergency Management Agency, brought all this to attention at the September 1st meeting of the Lycoming County Commissioners. She presented an outstanding outline of the three steps that all residents of the county should consider to properly prepare for an emergency if help is not available in a timely manner; have an emergency supply kit ready, have a family plan, and know the hazards in your community be it home, business or school.
Robinson noted that after an emergency, you may have to survive on your own for several days; the rule of thumb is 72 hours. What should you have ready? A Disasters Supplies Kit should contain the necessities such as water (one gallon per person per day for drinking and hygiene), nonperishable food, portable battery-powered radio, plastic sheeting and bedding, disposable plates, cups, and utensils, as well as copies of important family documents like insurance policies, identification, and bank account records. And also, try to squeeze into your kit items such as books, games, and other activities to keep you from going crazy without internet, cell service, and possibly even electricity.
The second element Robinson noted was a family plan. What would you do if your family members were separated during an emergency? Do you know what you need to know? A family plan is specific to you; your family member’s needs and responsibilities, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like operating medical equipment. Everyone in the family should have a paper record that they keep with them at all times, which would have important contacts such as medical facilities, doctors, schools, and service providers.
The third element of knowing the hazards might be the easiest of all because of the 52 municipalities in LC; everyone is required by law to have an Emergency Management Coordinator. They would know what your local area has for hazards and vulnerability. Reach out to them. There is also the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan (which runs 440 pages!)
Personally, I have had my own close encounter of an emergency kind on several occasions. One was when I was home from college in the summer of 1972 when the flood hit our home in Montgomery. I remember spending the entire day helping my family trying to move furniture from the first floor to the second floor, and got so preoccupied, that we almost got trapped because of the rising water. We got out with little more than the clothes on our backs.
For those interested, there is a wealth of information on emergency management, and all residents would be wise to be familiar with it. Kelly Robinson and her team exhibited some outstanding pamphlets and guides to walk through the three steps outlined in her presentation. There were pamphlets designed for older people as well as those with children in their families. In fact, there is even a very colorful booklet entitled “The Super Safety Squad Needs Your Help” that uses puzzles and games to get the message across to youngsters.
There is lots more info on Emergency Management, which can be found by going to lyco.org, going to the link on “Public Safety,” and scrolling down to “Emergency Management Agency.” If you wish to acquire some of the pamphlets or materials or have specific questions, you can contact them by phone (570) 443-4461 or 329-4061 or email email@example.com.