Going Beyond ‘The Plan’
By Beth Freeman, Regional Administrator FEMA Region VII
September 1, 2014
What you do, choose not to do, perhaps even hesitate to do is based on two conditions – the planned and the unplanned. You notice your gas tank is low on fuel as you leave work one evening. What do you do – you stop for gas, either on the way home or first thing in the morning. Why? Because you plan on going to work the next morning and you’ll need fuel to get there.
You’ve fueled up and headed home, going about your evening as planned. It was your night to cook dinner as your spouse was running late from work; you watched a little news, helped the kids with their homework and walked the dog after supper. Now let’s consider an unplanned wrinkle in your evening of plans and normalcy. What if a tornado struck at 7:00 pm, or perhaps a severe weather storm caused a blackout impacting your entire neighborhood? Now what’s your next step…what’s the plan?
And what about your spouse? Your mind quickly goes to thoughts of where and how he or she was – Was she watching the weather reports? Did he know how to take shelter? Where is she now and what’s the best way to reach her? Is he ok?
Unfortunately, this situation has played out many times for many families. Disasters are oftentimes consistently unpredictable – we know they will happen, but when, how severe, and where we’ll be when they occur, are often the biggest and most unnerving unknowns.
National Preparedness Month - observed every year in September – serves as a reminder that everyone must take action to prepare for the types of emergencies that can affect us. It enables us to take yet another step, big or small, from simply existing in an environment of planned activities, events, and to-dos, to proactively preparing to survive and thrive after an unplanned emergency.
This year, FEMA through its national Ready Campaign, will promote the theme “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare” by highlighting specific actions individuals and groups can take to prepare for an emergency. These actions center around four weekly themes or blocks of emergency preparedness:
Week 1: How to… Reconnect with Family after a Disaster
Week 2: How to… Plan for Specific Needs before a Disaster
Week 3: How to… Build an Emergency Kit
Week 4: How to… Practice for an Emergency
Sounds fairly simple right? However, results from FEMA’s nation-wide survey conducted earlier this year found that fifty percent (50%) of Americans haven’t discussed or developed an emergency plan for family members detailing what to do and how to reunite in the event of a disaster.
Think back to our earlier scenario…how would your reach your spouse? Do the two of you have a designated meeting place or perhaps a point of contact outside of your immediate community who can assist with connecting the two of you and confirming both parties are safe?
Connecting, having and practicing an emergency plan and being within arms’ reach of emergency supplies all sound like small simple steps we can take; truthfully, they may actually mean the difference between life and death once a disaster strikes.
During the month of September you may come across email reminders, maybe even public service announcements about the importance of preparing for disasters. But no reminder, activity or promotion will be as meaningful and as impactful as the one you take for your own life and for that of your family. This also means thinking beyond what’s immediately obvious and planning for those who may not be able to prepare or readily plan for themselves – like those who are disabled, those with limited English proficiency, our seniors, and our family pets.
So please start by taking one step past the point at which you were this time last year, and move towards being better prepared in 2014. It’s time to close the gap between the planned and the unplanned. It’s time to “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare.”
Ready to go? You can get started at Ready.gov.