Throughout the month of September, the American Red Cross is helping Americans take steps to become better prepared for emergencies and disasters.
National Preparedness Month presents an opportunity for people to become better prepared for hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, like Sept. 11, 2001, and other emergencies. It also provides a time to honor the victims and those who responded to the disasters, while making a commitment to be more prepared in the future.
"We must all do what we can to prepare our families and make our communities ready for the next emergency," said Debi Meeds, American Red Cross Regional CEO (chief executive officer).
The Red Cross advises people to prepare for disasters by taking the three action steps of building a kit, making a plan and being informed.
Disaster kits should include enough supplies for at least three days in case of evacuation. Supplies should include: one gallon of water, per person, per day; nonperishable food items; flashlights; a battery-powered or hand-crank radio; batteries; a first aid kit; a seven-day supply of medications; a multi-purpose tool; sanitation and personal hygiene items; and copies of personal documents. The Red Cross recommends keeping a two-week supply of these items at home.
To develop an emergency plan, have all members of the household participate in designating a meeting place directly outside the home in case of an emergency, such as a fire. Each member should know how to reach the other members of the household. In addition, an out-of-area emergency contact person and a location to meet if meeting at the home is not possible should be established in the plan.
Being informed is the next part of preparing for emergencies and disasters and should include being familiar with the disasters most likely to affect the area where a family lives and how the local authorities contact community members in case of an emergency. First Aid and CPR/AED training are also useful when responding to health emergencies when advanced medical help is unavailable.
"We have learned from previous disasters that the government, communities and organizations like the Red Cross will never be big enough to do it all in every disaster," said Meeds. "Every person, business, school and house of worship must be prepared to take care of themselves and their neighbors in an emergency."
Throughout the year, the Red Cross hosts a "Do More Than Cross Your Fingers" campaign, featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, to help people prepare for emergencies, beginning with how to customize an emergency kit.
The "Ready When the Time Comes" program mobilizes employees from corporations to act as a community-based volunteer force when disasters strike. The Red Cross also offers an online tutorial called "Be Red Cross Ready" to teach emergency preparedness.
The "Ready Rating" program hosted by the Red Cross is a free self-paced web-based membership program that measures how ready businesses, organizations and schools are to handle emergencies, since 40 percent of businesses fail following a natural disaster.
Members of the "Ready Rating" program have access to customized feedback on how to improve their readiness for disasters. It is designed for businesses who are just beginning their emergency preparedness and for those who want confirmation of their preparedness level.