CENTRAL TEXAS — September is National Preparedness Month, which means now is a great time to develop a plan in case a natural disaster or other emergency strikes. Emergency managers are using this month to remind the public that being ready for a disaster all starts with preparation.
You'll first want to familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that can occur where you live. These don't have to be weather-related. It might be something like a chemical spill or train derailment. Of course, weather-related disasters are the most likely type of hazard in Central Texas. February was a good example.
We're about to enter October, which meteorologists consider the "second season" for severe weather in this part of the country. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes usually see a bit of an uptick.
"Whether it's natural or man-made or any sort of hazard, it reminds you it's always a good idea to be prepared," said assistant emergency management coordinator Ryan Dirker.
Dirker works with the EM office in Waco. He says that the first place to get started with disaster prep is to put together a plan.
"You are in the best position to take care of yourself and your families," said Dirker. "More so than our office or the fire department or the police department. You are the first line of response."
You'll want to cover all the details when forming an emergency plan with your family. Figure out where you'll go if you need to evacuate and what to do if you get separated. Take important documents with you if you have to leave. Discuss how you'll keep in communication with people if phones are down. These are just a few of the items to touch on. You can find some great guidelines for developing your plan at txready.org.
The next step is to put together a preparedness kit. Disasters can be a scary subject for kids and it may not be the easiest thing to talk about.
Wes Rapaport, media and communications director with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said having kids help in putting the kit together can ease their fears about the topic.
"Kids can be involved in maybe picking out the backpack or the bag that's there. Helping to put the supplies in, knowing what all the supplies are that are there," said Rapaport.
Dirker says there are a few items you'll want to put in your kit aside from the more obvious things like non-perishable food and flashlights.
"Charging cables, medication, couple of clothes. Anything that you and your family would need if you had to leave for let's say 48 to 72 hours," said Dirker.
By taking some time to get everything prepared now, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches should an emergency occur. It's better to take care of things early than be scrambling for solutions once a disaster hits.
"That plan is kind of the key upper-level response when it comes to what people can do to make sure people are prepared for a disaster," said Rapaport.
Emergency managers also suggest that the public look into signing up for emergency alerts from their local or state government. That way you'll always be in the know if an alert is issued for your area.
All of this may sound like a lot to consider but there are some great resources out there to help you get started. In addition to the checklists and tips at txready.org, you can also head to ready.gov for information on specific types of emergencies.
In the spirit of National Preparedness Month, you can encourage your friends and extended family to discuss a plan of action if they haven't already.