Being a relatively new observance, National Preparedness Month is not necessarily widely known. It is what Homeland Security designated the month of September in 2002, in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
This initiative, which has the support of the Red Cross and other such organizations, is geared toward helping individuals, families, schools and workplaces develop efficient emergency response plans. This way, they will be ready in the event of a disaster -- natural or manmade.
Jim Maxwell, chief of the Batavia Fire Dept., recently commented on the fact that National Preparedness Month gets too little attention at the local level.
"It upsets me that not enough people get involved locally," he said. "I'd like to try and prepare for more (involvement) next year."
Maxwell's disappointment stems from his belief that every emergency is local in nature.
"It just depends on how you define local," he said. "'Local' starts in the household. For me (as fire chief), local means the City of Batavia. For someone like Jay Gsell (the Genesee County manager), the word 'local' has an even broader meaning. It (an emergency) starts and ends locally."
Of course, reparedness is not limited to September -- it ought to be a year-round priority.
"Part of my position is to make people aware," Maxwell said. "National Preparedness measures make things easier in the long run, because people are trained to handle smaller emergencies while we (firemen, emergency response teams, law enforcement, etc.) handle the bigger emergencies."
The chief pointed to National-Preparedness-Month-related websites that list things people can do to be ready for an emergency or disaster, as well as prepare for greater involvement in promoting the awareness campaign next year.
He mentioned websites like www.ready.gov, which educates people regarding steps they can take in order to successfully weather emergencies and provides information on what materials/provisions/supplies (and how many) they will need.
If you Google terms such as "National Preparedness Month" and "survival mom" (for parents), you will find a lot of useful information, including:
- how to coordinate an exit drill in your home
- establishing a meeting place for your family outside the home
- designating what Maxwell calls a "focal person" -- someone who is outside of the home, the area, or even the state -- who the family can contact if they get separated.
Another website Maxwell mentioned was www.72hourplan.com.
Anyone who is interested in contributing to National Preparedness Month next year or would simply like more information can contact Maxwell at [email protected], or call 345-6400, ext. 4379.