National Preparedness Month: Create a Plan

September is National Preparedness Month. The nationwide initiative, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, encourages Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies since they often occur without warning.

Bowie Civil Air Patrol is offering advice on various disaster preparedness topics each week of the month, as a service to Bowie residents. This week, we focus on Making a Plan.

Create Contact Cards
To begin, make sure each member of the household has a contact card to carry with them in case of an emergency. Bowie Squadron Homeland Security Officer, 2nd Lt. Albert Redd, Jr. says the card should include work, home, cell and school phone numbers, if applicable. "The more established points of contact you have, the more you can minimize the effect of a separation or dislocation," he said.

Experts say it is often easier to make calls outside of the area during a disaster. So, it is important that your contact card include at least one trusted friend or relative outside of your state who can relay information back and forth to various family members.

Emergencies During the Day
When emergencies happen during the work and school day, families are often caught off guard.
Parents should find out ahead of time if their child's school has a plan. "Most schools, because of the lack of convenient transportation, pretty much default to shelter in place in most scenarios. That's going to at least give you some assurance of what is happening," said Redd. He adds that schools will typically release children to their parents upon showing proper ID.

Home Preparation
Know how to turn off your utilities during an emergency. Shutting off your electricity can prevent damage to appliances when power is restored following an outage. Turning off the gas can prevent fires and shutting off the water supply to your house can prevent damage to your pipes in the winter months. Redd suggests turning off all utilities if you are forced to evacuate.

Don't Rely Solely on Technology
Redd suggests having a road atlas in your car. He says there is a chance your GPS system will not be helpful during certain types of emergencies. He also suggests keeping paper copies of important phone numbers on hand. If you are unable to re-charge a cell phone or PDA, you may suddenly find your contact information unavailable.

Practice the Plan
Redd suggests discussing possible emergencies with your family ahead of time. "It can be as simple as when you are sitting down to dinner; throw a scenario out and walk through the through possible solutions," he said. Finally, Redd says the most important thing we can do during an emergency is to have patience and flexibly. "You're already going to be dealing with sensory overload but you don't want to be dealing with sensory shut-down. Regardless of the scenario what you want to have is a plan to minimize the impact of the event," said Redd.

For more information about how to create an emergency plan, visit the homeland security section of the Bowie CAP Web site at www.bowiecap.org. If you or your child, 12 years or older, are interested in joining CAP, call 301-805-8200.