Hurricane Season is Here: Is Your Community Prepared?

Tuesday, 02 September 2008

September is National Preparedness Month, and Fire Corps members along the southern and eastern coasts can take this opportunity to focus on preparing their communities for a very relevant threat –hurricanes. With the recent landfall of Hurricane Gustav and several more tropical storms brewing in the Atlantic, Fire Corps members can be an integral part of the preparedness effort, as well as assist in evacuation procedures and clean-up efforts.

The Ready America campaign, which encourages citizens to prepare for all kinds of emergencies, lists three major steps in hurricane preparation: acquiring or assembling an emergency supply kit, developing a plan of evacuation, and staying informed. Being prepared before a hurricane or other emergency strikes is critical. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, “If residents make individual and family preparations, they make it easier for first responders to focus on people who can’t help themselves and need help first.”

Your Fire Corps members can help ensure that hurricane preparedness messages reach community members by distributing materials listing precautionary measures, posting information on the department’s web site, and hanging posters or flyers with preparedness information in the community.

Fire Corps members can also assist the department in ensuring that the elderly receive assistance in executing precautionary measures. The journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness recently released statistics indicating that just under half of the nearly 1,000 people who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina were above the age of 75. To ensure that those numbers are never repeated, Fire Corps members can work with local organizations to contact at risk individuals to offer assistance with boarding up windows, securing loose outdoor objects, arranging transportation and lodging in the event of an evacuation, and arranging for the care of any pets.

Once a hurricane has passed, Fire Corps members can assist in clean-up efforts within their community. In places where flooding and wind damage have occurred, Fire Corps may be able to assist with removing sandbags, drying out buildings, repainting, collecting debris, and clearing roadways. Departments and community members may also benefit from canteen services as they sift through the wreckage. Fire Corps members who are properly trained may also be needed to assist with search and rescue efforts.

For more information on preparedness resources, including hurricane preparation, visit the Fire Corps National Preparedness Month Resource Center. Learn more about National Preparedness Month at www.ready.gov.

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