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September is Emergency Preparedness Month

Emergency Preparedness Tips from FEMA’s Community Preparedness Officer

by lyssa Plumer
Community Preparedness Officer, FEMA Region 10

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As I write this, it’s late-August 2023, and I’m working out of my unfinished basement, trying to stay cool during Seattle’s latest heatwave. Between the multiple heat advisory alerts on my phone, the images on the news of wildfires burning across the country, and even warnings of a tropical storm impacting the west coast, it’s times like this that remind me why it’s essential to be informed, have an emergency plan and supplies ready, and be engaged with my community.

This year, FEMA’s focus for National Preparedness Month, which is observed each September, is on older adults, because they often face greater risks when it comes to disasters. As FEMA Region 10’s Community Preparedness Officer, I’d like to share a few tips to help Washington AARP members prepare and stay safe:

· Be Informed Research your local hazards and emergency preparedness resources. When you enjoy the outdoors, be aware of wildfires and smoke (and keep those N-95s handy!). When on the coast, be aware of tsunami risks and local evacuation routes. As temperatures heat up, if you don’t have air conditioning, know where cooler spaces are such as cooling centers, libraries, community centers, or a friend’s home.

Sign up for local emergency alerts from the state and county emergency management. In Washington, you can dial 2-1-1 to be connected with resources in your community. emergency alerts.

· Make a plan. Know your evacuation routes, have a communications plan with loved ones, and know where your meetings places are in case you are not together. Have an out-of-the area contact, someone who is not likely to be impacted by the same event you and your local community may be experiencing, and keep in mind that texting may be easier to connect with loved ones after an event. You can find additional planning considerations here: Make A Plan | Ready.gov.

· Build a Kit. Have essential supplies ready. This includes your go-bag ready to take if you are advised to evacuate and a larger, shelter-in-place kit at home that would ideally have over two weeks of basic supplies, including medications.

Start small if you don’t have a kit yet. Gather enough supplies for 2-3 days, many of which you likely have already – such as water, non-perishable food, copies of your important paperwork, cash (small bills), layers for all types of weather/temperature, a comfort item, and so on.

· Get involved. Get to know your neighbors and be aware of what help you or those around you may need in an emergency. Within the emergency management community, we often say ‘disasters start and end locally.’ Outside help can take time to arrive, so communities should come together to help one another. No one should go through a heatwave, wildfire, or other disaster alone.

September may be National Preparedness Month, but in my book, we should be prepared every day of the year. I encourage us all to be resourceful, do what we can with what we’ve got, and to look out for others. Wherever you are on your preparedness journey, keep it going. Let’s encourage ourselves and our communities to do what we can; we’re in this together!

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