By Beth Heath

March is National Red Cross Month, and that makes it a great time to think about emergency planning. The Red Cross, in addition to being there for all of us during an emergency situation, has information on how to plan for emergencies as well. Much of the information from this week’s column came from their excellent web site. Emergency situations happen every day. Some affect only you or your family, like a medical emergency or house fire, or affect an entire community, such as weather events. Still others involve the entire country, like an act of terrorism, or world, like a pandemic. Although your local, state, and federal government officials are constantly planning ways to keep you safe in the event of an emergency, you have a responsibility to be as prepared as possible to keep you and your loved ones safe. The Red Cross recommends three different actions for family emergency preparedness: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.

Your kit should have water, food, a battery powered or hand crank radio (a NOAA Weather radio is best), a first aid kit, and medical supplies. You also need two way radios, cell phones with chargers, extra money, a manual can opener, a whistle, moist towelettes and other personal hygiene supplies, and a small multipurpose tool. Include copies of important paperwork, such as passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc.

Your family emergency preparedness plan should include how your family will react in case of an emergency that would impact just your family, such as a house fire, or a disaster on a greater scale. Think about how your family would react in an emergency. What would happen if you were separated from your children and a disaster occurred? Would your family know to reunite? What if phone lines were not working, and it was not as easy as just calling to check on them? This can and does happen in a disaster situation. You, and your children, should have a plan for such an occurrence. If developing a plan for this seems overwhelming, www.ready.gov has a family disaster template that can help you develop a family disaster plan.

Finally, you should be informed. Learn about our area, and disasters or emergencies that may occur. We think about how people who live on the coast are more at risk of hurricanes, and worry about those that live in “Tornado Alley.” But in the last few years, we have experienced a range of severe weather as well, like flooding, unexpected accumulation of snowfall, severe winds and thunderstorms, and tornadoes. Being informed also means being aware of current weather patterns and following the recommendations about when to take shelter. It means learning CPR, and maybe taking a first aid class.

A great tool that our local government has for Madison County citizens to stay informed is the First Call emergency alert system. This is a system that will send out messages through home or office phone, text message, email, or cell phone whenever there is an emergency situation. All you have to do is sign up. Go to http://www.madisoncountyga.us/ for more information.

I urge you to visit the red cross website (redcross.org) for more thorough information about personal emergency preparedness. Ready.gov also has printable information that can help you, and your family, prepare for an emergency that may come your way.

A special thanks to the Red Cross for all they do to help us and our families during emergencies.

Beth Heath is the county nurse manager for the Madison County Health Department.

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