Get Ready, Get Set, Get Prepared!

With students back in the classroom, schools across the country are making plans to deal with a possible resurgence of the H1N1 virus. Businesses, essential service providers and others are also ramping up for an unpredictable fall as fires rage in California and unusual weather patterns cause problems across the country.

The daily onslaught of reports about impending disaster on television screens and in newspapers can leave parents dealing with their own uncertainties as well as those of their children. However, there are simple steps families can take to lessen the fear and empower themselves when faced with the unexpected.

Taking some kind of action during September, which is designated National Preparedness Month, is a good start. Launched by FEMA, Ready America, Ready Business and Ready Kids are programs that provide extensive information on how families, individuals and other groups can prepare for a variety of emergencies.

The campaign’s website outlines three important areas of action:

Get a Kit. Assembling a simple kit with basic items ensures that victims will have the necessities to survive during the critical hours before emergency or outside help arrives. These portable kits can also be crucial if families are forced to evacuate immediately from their homes and spend time in a shelter. Among the items to include are easy-to-carry containers of water, a 3-day supply of non-perishable foods such as canned meats and juices, nuts, crackers, fruit bars or other high-energy foods, a battery-powered flashlight and radio, and a basic first aid kit.

Make a plan: The Ready website offers a template adults can print off and use in their home. Becky Marquis, Director of Ready Campaign, recommends that families "sit down at the dinner table and take 20 minutes to prepare your plan with your children. Talk about a meeting place and arrange for out of town family contacts."

"Knowledge is power and having a plan can help children feel confident and comfortable in dealing with an emergency." Marquis adds. She also suggests that parents know what the emergency plans are at their children’s school. "Our first response [in an emergency] is to want to go and pick our children up. But we need to know what the school’s plan is for an emergency."

Marquis suggests that the weather is a good subject to use when teaching about disasters since most children are familiar with thunderstorms or other weather patterns. The Ready Kids site has a list of interactive games and other activities that can help families get prepared in a fun, non-threatening manner.

The needs and circumstances of older family members or those dealing with disabilities should also be taken into account according to Marquis. While the Ready agency does not encourage the stockpiling of medication, it recommends that patients have a few extra days worth of their prescription on hand along with a list of their medications. These simple preparations can make it easier to have prescriptions filled or replaced during a crisis.

Be Informed: As families prepare for different types of man-made and natural disasters, Marquis encourages them to learn about potential emergencies specific to their area. These risks may include flooding, severe winter storms, tornados, potential transportation or industrial accidents and forest fires.

As a first action, families may want to test their own Readiness Quotient at Then follow up with planned activities to prepare a personal kit and action outline for your family.

"Preparedness is an individual responsibility," said Marquis. "There are things you can to do prepare your family such as making a kit and taking preventative measures that can go a long way to help relieve the stress of an emergency."

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