There are numerous emergency situations that can impact people's lives — from fires to floods to the characteristic tornadoes so prevalent in Kansas. Hurricanes can be in that mix as well, and if the recent devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma weren't enough of a reminder of how important emergency planning can be, September is also National Preparedness Month.
As such, an emphasis is placed this month on taking the proper steps to be prepared — no matter the situation. Especially after seeing the response to the recent hurricanes along the the Gulf Coast and Florida, Harvey County Emergency Management Director Gary Denny noted just how important it is for individuals to take ownership of those efforts.
Relying solely on government resources is not a strategy Denny advises, as he said that no matter the level (federal, state or local) those will not be distributed immediately and are not expected to even be available in the affected area for a few days. Complacency is the enemy, according to Denny, and he suggested citizens build up their own emergency supply stores — with meds, water, pet food, etc. — over time to be best prepared.
Overplanning is another tactic Denny recommends, as there are many variables that can't be accounted for in various emergency situations, whether man-made or natural disasters.
"We've learned over the last few years that planning is a huge benefit. There's value to planning. There's value to organizing what your needs are, how you're going to accomplish those needs and where you're going to get those," Denny said. "Always have a plan B. You can have a preparedness plan and anticipate, but what if those safety zones, that evacuation shelter that you put at the top of your preparedness plan, what if that is within the area that has been affected?"
Looking for a place to start in helping get prepared? Denny notes that the primary resource emergency management officials point to is ready.gov, a website of the Department of Homeland Security. On the state website (ksready.gov) two prime rules are listed on the home page, including making a plan of action and creating an emergency kit.
No matter the situation, those two steps help create a foundation of preparedness so individuals can react in a number of ways — another measure Denny recommends.
"There's no way that you can prepare for everything that has a potential to impact you, so approach your preparedness plans in an all hazards way, kind of a one-stop shop,"Denny said.
Depending on the situation, whether it is an incident of cyber security or an out-of-control wildfire, the specific components — like evacuation tactics and supplies for the emergency kit — of the preparedness plan will vary. The ksready.gov website recommends gathering enough supplies to last at least 72 hours.
A preparedness plan can be the difference between life and death, Denny said, and while numerous responders answer the call to provide support in emergency situations he said individuals can greatly help themselves with those efforts — especially in staying on top of them.
"Of course, when you do have something in place, it needs to be updated on a regular basis," Denny said. "The plan is only as good as the newest information (i.e. financials, medical information, points of contact, etc.) that was entered into the plan."
"You can't expect and rely on somebody else supplying your needs, so it's best for you to prepare ahead of time, come up with a plan and contemplate what your needs are," Denny said. "Create that plan, identify what the needs are, but just be aware what's happening around you."
For more information on helping plan for specific types of emergencies, visit ready.gov or ksready.gov.