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Agencies urge residents to prepare for disasters

Agencies urge residents to prepare for disasters

Posted: Friday, September 5, 2008 9:17 pm

The Tennessee Department of Safety’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS), along with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and Metro Nashville’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), have partnered to urge all Tennessee residents to take action and be prepared in case of an emergency. A joint news conference was held Tuesday morning at the state Department of Safety headquarters in Nashville to kick off the fifth annual National Preparedness Month. “Many people think they will never have to face a situation that requires them to have an emergency plan, but by their nature, disasters can be unpredictable,” Tennessee Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell said. “Residents should be prepared to provide for themselves for at least three days in emergencies such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.” Through OHS’s Tennessee Citizen Corps program, citizens are educated about emergency preparedness efforts. Specifically, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training teaches basic emergency response measures, but there are three simple things everyone can do to prepare for emergencies and disasters: • Get a supply kit; • Make a family emergency plan; and • Be informed about different kinds of emergencies and how to respond to them. In Tennessee, there is potential for a wide range of natural disasters, including tornadoes, flooding, snow storms and earthquakes. On Feb. 5-6, 2008, a strong line of super-cell thunderstorms swept across much of the state. These cells spawned tornadoes that caused severe damage in 24 counties, from Shelby to Macon. Thirty-three people were killed as a result of that storm and nearly 200 were injured. Tornadoes typically strike in the spring, but Tennessee also has a “secondary” severe weather season in November and December, so residents should always be prepared. “Maintaining at least a minimal level of individual preparedness is a vital component to a community’s ability to weather any disaster,” TEMA director James Bassham said. “The steps that you, as a private citizen, take now can help insulate yourself and your family from harm and allow emergency responders to be available to help those in less fortunate situations.” “A lot of us rely on emergency personnel when a disaster strikes, but people need to realize and understand that those first responders may not be able to assist them immediately,” said Rick Shipkowski, the deputy director of the Office of Homeland Security. “We want people to take the time this month to make an emergency plan and prepare a supply kit so they can take care of themselves and their family, friends or neighbors until help arrives.” A basic kit should include at least a three-day supply of basic necessities, such as water and non-perishable food and prescription medications. A family emergency plan should describe how members will contact one another if they are separated. It should include an out-of-town contact number in case local telephone service is disrupted. Families should identify potential evacuation locations and think through how to “shelter-in-place” at home if needed. An outline for a family emergency plan can be found online at the Ready.gov Web site. “It’s important that you know the potential emergencies that can happen in your region and community,” said Metro Nashville OEM deputy director Kevin Penney. “For specific questions about the area where you live, we encourage you to contact your local Office of Emergency Management.” Metro Nashville OEM encourages increased citizen awareness in regards to natural and man-made hazards affecting this area and how an individual or family can become self-reliant for 72 hours after a major emergency or disaster. Information on contacting other county emergency management offices in the state can be found online at TEMA’s Web site at www.tnema.org. Emergency management recommends citizens purchase a battery-operated NOAA radio with tone alert to stay apprised of developments during emergencies. It is always important to listen to and follow the advice of local officials in the event of an emergency. National Preparedness Month is held each September to raise public awareness about emergency preparedness and is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign. Ready is a national public service advertising campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation. For more information, visit Ready.gov or call 1-800-BE-READY. Published in The Messenger 9.5.08

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