The NYC subway under water, unprecedented flooding in Colorado, early season blizzards curtailing Halloween trick or treating – over the past few years we’ve all seen these images flash across our screens and many of us have been directly affected by these extreme weather events. In this new weather reality “It won’t happen to me” is no longer an excuse for not taking steps to be prepared in the event of a natural disaster.
September is National Preparedness Month and as we head into the winter storm season it’s worth it to take the time to build out an emergency plan for you and your family. National surveys show that just 30-35 percent of Americans have an emergency plan in place and supplies on hand to sustain them for 72 hours – some experts estimate that number is far lower. Take some time to come up with a plan. It could make a huge difference when “It won’t happen to me” doesn’t come through.
Build a Kit: We’ve all seen the pictures of empty aisles at the grocery store when a storm is coming – don’t find yourself with one can of tuna and uncooked pasta for a household of four . There are some basics that everyone should have in an emergency kit – copies of important documents in a water tight container; non-perishable food and water for three days; flashlights and extra batteries; a first aid kit and prescription medication. Tailor the kit to suit your situation – pets, infants and the elderly have additional needs so make sure you’ve covered all of the essential bases. Reference FEMA’s useful checklist of must-haves and add-ons.
Make a Plan: Map out an evacuation plan and designate a meeting spot in the event you are separated from your family. Ask your community leaders if they have an emergency plan in place and incorporate some of those details into your plan especially if there is a pre-designated shelter like a community center or fire station. Just like the fire drills we all loved as kids, practice makes perfect - go over the plan and if you have children make getting to the meeting spot fun so it’s less scary if you need to implement in case of a real emergency.
Stay Informed: With the crazy weather lately it’s anyone’s guess what Mother Nature will throw our way – for the Northeast region we know that hurricanes and blizzards frequently make an appearance so think about what challenges each event presents and plan accordingly. While we all know that meteorologists are wrong 50 percent of the time if talk of a big storm is all over the news be prepared – at best, you’ll be comfortable at home out of the elements and at worst, you’ll be ready to put your emergency plan into place. Most cities and towns now offer emergency warnings shared via text and email - check the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System Authorities website to learn what is available in your area.
Be Part of Your Community: It seems that we learn our neighbors’ names during emergencies – whether stuck in the dark or cleaning up from a flood, extreme weather events have a way of bringing communities together. Before disaster strikes introduce yourself to the neighbors, ask them about their emergency plan and identify people who may need extra assistance; a prepared neighborhood will be better equipped to bounce back. If you want to be more involved talk to your local government – many communities are mobilizing to create emergency plans and want citizen input. Run by FEMA, Citizen Corps works with local government entities and community groups to coordinate volunteers in the wake of emergencies.
At NEEP we talk a lot about how to make your home or building as energy efficient as possible and we firmly believe that reducing the electric load through efficiency measures leads to a more reliable energy system. As recent events have proven, however, we can’t count on the lights and heat to stay on when Mother Nature hits us with yet another storm: What's In Your Kit?