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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Preparedness is a whole community issue

Last week, I was able to attend the Regional Response Team, Region 9 quarterly meeting.  More than 100 people from a variety of agencies attended at least one day of the all-hazard response support and preparedness group’s three-day meeting at Camp Navajo in Bellemont, Ariz.

First responders learn about Bakken Crude Oil atop a
BNSF tanker car in Bellemont, AZ.
A Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line runs through Apache, Coconino, Mohave and Navajo counties in Northern Arizona. Although no Bakken Crude Oil has come through the state yet, those in the audience were there to learn about Bakken  – what it is, what kind of tanker car transports it, what can happen if it spills and what kind of response is needed if it does. The attendees also brought their emergency response plans to determine if they have effective responses for a spill worked into their plans.

Everyone at the meeting knew the importance of being prepared ahead of a disaster. To them, that means learning about what potential disasters could affect them and then writing up plans to determine their responses for the worst possible scenario.

Preparedness does not only have to be something emergency managers or first responders work on in order to be ready for a train derailment. Preparedness is something each person in the community can (and should) do.

At the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), we talk to people about personal preparedness regularly. We encourage people to plan, prepare, inquire and inspire others to be prepared.

Write a family communication plan that details how you and your family will respond in an emergency. Include a place to meet, as well as an evacuation route away from the house. Plan what to do if told to shelter-in-place. Decide on an out-of-town contact, a person the entire family can call or text to let them know that they are safe.

Prepare a disaster supplies kit; a collection of basic items you may need in the event of an emergency. Your disaster supplies kit should contain essential food, water and supplies for at least three days. It should have a first aid kit and medications, a flashlight, radio and batteries. Don’t forget to account for any special needs and/or pets.

Be informed about what disasters may happen in your community, natural and man-made. Find out if hazardous materials are transported through your community. Learn how your local officials will tell you about an emergency.

Inspire others to be prepared as well. Give blood, take a first aid course, volunteer with the Red Cross or a Community Emergency Response Team.

One of the things I always notice when I attend one of these mixed agency events is the willingness and desire for everyone to work together and to build those important relationships. They know that they are stronger as a group, not as individual agencies. The same can be said for your neighborhood and place of employment. Talk to your neighbors about being prepared and what you can do together to be better prepared as a whole community.

For more information on being prepared, visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN). AzEIN has many more preparedness tips along with information on hazards and statewide emergencies.

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