September is National Preparedness Month and Sept. 16 is Get Ready Day. Ready for what, you might ask. I know I did. We do not live in California where earthquakes are frequent. We do not live in Arizona where wildfires ravage. We do not live near occurrences of landslides, tsnuamis or volcanoes. We don’t live along the Gulf where hurricanes are a season.
My husband and I spent seven years in New Orleans. In fact, that is where our daughter was born (no, she does not have a Nawlins accent). One thing you learn quickly is to be ready. We had been there about a month when Tropical Storm Frances dumped a bucket and a half on the city and into our car. Then, less than a month later, Hurricane Georges came through, forcing an evacuation. Whew, talk about getting ready – we learned to be ready quickly. In fact, we were ready when Hurricane Katrina threatened the gulf. We were ready with an evacuation route, a 3-day plan, and a contingency plan. That contingency plan got us here to Newton County, though definitely not easily. But here in Newton County, when it is July 1, you do not need to have a 3-day supply of food and water and an evacuation bag packed. Or do you?
No, we don’t have hurricanes, but we have seen our fair share of events. The 100-year flood. Tornadoes. Ice storms. And even some weather from hurricanes and tropical storms make it our way.
We have amazing public safety departments in this community that work together when disaster strikes. Emergency medical services, law protection, fire protection, and emergency management assistance are usually not thought of until needed, but we are so grateful for each and every one of those individuals who choose that line of work. When they are needed, they are ready. Newton County is a Storm Ready community, which means we have a high level of severe weather preparedness. The Newton County Emergency Management Agency (the local arm of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency) coordinates our community response to being ready. Jody Nolan, deputy director of Newton EMA, says the best disaster preparedness tool for citizens is asking yourself “Do you have 3 days of what you need?”
Do you have what you need for 3 days without power or access to supplies. Are you one of the 4,000 Newton County residents that requires home oxygen? Oxygen machines require power but battery backups are available for smaller machines and compressed gas tanks are available for larger ones. Are you medication dependent? Some medications such as insulin, inhalers, and blood pressure medication can be stockpiled for months. Talk to your physician about extending your prescription from 30 days to 90 days and perhaps about a generic brand to make this plan for preparedness more affordable. Do you have enough food in the pantry to get you and your family through 3 days without being able to turn on your oven? Do you have enough bottled water for drinking? Do you have enough water set aside to flush the commode? Are enough flashlights, batteries, toilet paper, and pet food handy in your household?
And do you have a deck of cards? After a couple of days without power, after everyone’s iPads go dead, a rousing match of Go Fish might just be thing to get you through.
We often don’t think about the things we need until we need them and usually, by then, it’s too late. Get Ready Day is about figuring out all those needs now before we need them and, well, getting ready. If you are looking for more information, there are online resources and checklists available at ready.ga.gov (where you can customize your plan and download a free mobile app) and at getreadyforflu.org (look under the Resources tab). For those of you who are wondering, running out the morning of the storm to buy milk and bread is NOT on the checklist.
Each school night, I ask my daughter if she is ready for bed. Then I ask her if she is ready for tomorrow. “Ready” goes beyond the immediate needs – for instance, my daughter is ready for bed when she has brushed her teeth and said her prayers. But she is not ready for tomorrow if she hasn’t gotten her agenda signed or packed up her book bag. Disaster preparedness is similar – it is being prepared for today and tomorrow, for the minor and the major disaster.
Our disasters might not be the same as California’s or Louisiana’s but they still require us to be ready. So, I ask you… are you ready? Not just for today but for tomorrow, too.
Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects and has led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.