Since the end of last year's hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been working with the nation's entire emergency management team to get ready for this year's hurricane season. That team includes the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the faith-based and nonprofit communities, and the private sector. Most important, that team includes you — the public.
It has been a few years since a major hurricane made landfall in the United States, but we can't count on that luck to continue, particularly now that Irene has developed into the first hurricane of the season. NOAA predicted a very active and intense hurricane season this year and recently increased the forecast for the number of hurricanes and tropical storms we might see this season. They predict seven to 10 hurricanes — and at least three of those could become major ones.
As we enter the peak period of this hurricane season, we have an important question for you. As someone who plays a critical role on our nation's emergency management team, are you prepared should a hurricane strike your home and family? If the answer is no, it's time to get prepared. The steps are easy:
Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.
• Get a kit, like the family in Fayette County, Ga., that ended up grabbing their emergency kit and heading for safety just before the late-April tornado outbreak in the Southeast approached their town. They were lucky the tornadoes didn't do much damage to their home, but their kit, which was stocked with contact lists, lanterns, batteries, bottled water, snacks, scissors, tape, plastic sheeting and a NOAA weather radio, came in handy as they were waiting out the storm in their pantry.
• Make a plan, like two sisters did in Smithville, Miss. On April 27 they were at home while their parents were at work, when a violent tornado was tearing apart their town. The sisters followed their family's tornado plan and covered themselves with blankets and huddled on the floor inside a hallway. Thanks to their plan, they eventually emerged safe and sound, even though their home had been destroyed by the tornado.
• Be informed, like the people of Minot, N.D., whose town was devastated by flooding this spring and summer. Residents started preparing weeks before the flood waters rose, saving what they could. As the threat increased, residents followed the directions of their state and local officials and evacuated. Because people stayed informed and took precautionary actions, there has been no loss of life from this disaster.
These are just a few examples of how being prepared saved lives this year. And we can all follow their lead by preparing ourselves for an active hurricane season.
Don't wait until a hurricane is approaching your home to start getting ready. The time to prepare is now — before disaster strikes.
And when it comes to hurricanes, remember one important thing: Know if you are in an evacuation zone, and if you're told to evacuate — evacuate. It can take only one storm to devastate communities and families.
Being personally prepared is not only important for your family but for your entire community.
We need your help. We know that in an emergency, your next-door neighbor is often times the first to come to your aid. Which is why when disaster strikes, if you and your family are okay, do one more thing: Check on a neighbor. Remember, you are part of the team.
By being prepared and looking out for our neighbors, our communities will be stronger, our emergency response team will be stronger and our country will be stronger.
© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services