It’s Only Natural
by Janet Wilmoth at 10:09 am, 09/12/2008
To me, September always feels more like the start of a new year than does January. Schools are back in session and fall conferences are scheduled. Typically this “new year” starts out slow for the fire service and ramps up in October with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend and Fire Prevention Week activities. This year is a little different, however.
Right now, hurricane season is in full swing. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces from Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri and Florida are pre-positioned for Hurricane Ike’s arrival in Texas. Illinois’ MABAS resources also have been deployed to secondary positions.
Last month, the U.S. Fire Administration offered fire and emergency response agencies a new special report, “Fire Department Preparedness for Extreme Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters.” According to USFA spokesman Tom Olshanski, the report includes lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, Pennsylvania storms and flood incidents.
The report offers fire departments a comprehensive guideline on staffing assessments, notification and callouts, accommodations and food, and support from other public service agencies. The report offers case studies on blizzards, power outages, earthquakes, hurricanes and more. The report is good example of the USFA’s efforts to assist and educate fire and emergency services on disaster preparations.
And speaking of preparations, this September is the fifth National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign.
Admittedly, National Preparedness Month is not quite a Hallmark holiday, marked like the Halloween decorations you’ll soon be seeing. But why not campaign to convince Americans to take responsibility to prepare for disasters — natural or otherwise? We urge residents to check smoke alarm batteries during Fire Prevention Week or when they change their clocks. It’s definitely time to expand that effort and urge people to prepare for other possible disasters.
A couple months ago, I gave a talk to a local women’s organization about disaster preparedness for senior citizens. Many of the members are seniors or care for aging parents. I shared that my daughter made sure that her grandmother has a bag near her door with a list of things to take with her in the event of a disaster or emergency evacuation. The list includes eyeglasses, medications and her wallet with insurance cards and identification. I also distributed a brochure from Ready.gov that is designed to help senior citizens prepare for a disaster or emergency evacuation.
Natural disasters are going to happen, naturally. Doesn’t it make sense to be prepared? News reports said the evacuation plans for Galveston and New Orleans went well recently. Fire departments have a responsibility to be prepared, but also to educate their communities to work with them.
It’s sort of like educating the consumers.