People don’t always think about the possibility of disaster when skies are blue, but now is the time to get prepared.
September is National Preparedness Month and the time of year to think about emergencies. “We don’t think about the winter weather. We don’t think about ice storms. We don’t think about those kinds of events,” said County Emergency Services Manager Patrick Collins. “But those are exactly the things we need to get prepared for because we know that natural hazards are the biggest threat to citizens. Here, historically, it’s been snow storms, ice storms, thunder storms, the occasional tornado and flooding.”
After 9-11, the federal government designated September as National Preparedness Month to encourage people to take the time to get prepared Collins said. “This has been going on for over 10 years, and we’ve been participating here in Prince William County ever since September was first designated as Preparedness Month. It gives everyone an opportunity to use September to make sure that they’re prepared should there be any kind of disaster or emergency.”
Collins said there are four things people should do to prepare for an emergency. They should first develop a family disaster plan that, among other things, designates a spot where everyone should meet in the event of an emergency. Families should also designate someone out of the area they can call if need be and keep important phone numbers handy. “Sit down as a family and figure out what you’re going to do should there be a disaster,” Collins said.
People should also build a kit with enough water and non-perishable food to last for three days. According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, that means three gallons of water per person. Kits should also include: flashlights, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, toiletries, blankets or sleeping bags, prescription medications, a first aid kit, canned or packaged food, a manual can opener and special items for infants or the elderly.
A third thing people should do is to stay informed. Collins said a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio works well in emergencies and can be bought in most big-box stores. Local media outlets will also advise of evacuation orders, evacuation routes, the locations of shelters and weather watches and warnings.
Collins said people could also sign up for the Prince William Community Alert Network (PWCAN) by going to www.pwcgov.org/pwcan. The County will also provide information via the County’s website, Facebook page and Twitter page.
The fourth thing people should do is to encourage their neighbors to get prepared, as well. “If every person is prepared, and every family is prepared and every neighborhood is prepared, then those are people we don’t have to worry about during disasters,” Collins said. “We realized after 9-11 that every citizen who gets prepared makes the country more resilient.”
For more information about National Preparedness Month, visit www.ready.gov/september.