Emergency Preparedness Is Everyone’s Job

Do you remember the ice storm of ’98? If you were living in New England at the time, it was an event that is pretty difficult to forget. This natural disaster left most Mainers without power for weeks. The storm also cost millions of dollars in clean-up and repair to damaged homes and businesses. For the short term, the storm taught many Mainers just how unprepared they were to weather such a storm. It has been 20 years and the ice storm is just a memory but it could quickly become the present. Are Mainers prepared?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency website lists some steps people should take in order to be ready for an emergency. FEMA suggests that people research emergency situations, gather supplies in advance and prepare to help out a neighbor. Knowing what emergencies could arise and how to plan for them can take some of the stress out of an otherwise very stressful situation.

Mainer, nurse and health practice manager Shea Gilbert defines emergency as “anything that causes damage to the house or surrounding area. Also, a medical emergency; a public health related emergency if there was an outbreak.” Shea has worked with FEMA and the Red Cross to prepare her hospital for emergencies and has used her knowledge to get things ready at home.

Emergencies can include long power outages, fire, flooding, severe winter storms, tornadoes or hurricanes. Emergencies can also include viral epidemics, terrorist attacks and economic failure. Any natural or man-made disaster that affects safety or access to life-sustaining necessities can be considered an emergency.

With such a variety of emergencies, it is hard for some people to know how to prepare. Preparation isn’t just about having a little food and water on hand. There is more to it than that. Lifelong Mainer, Misty Curtis, said, “We have at least two cases of bottled water for emergencies (and) a supply of canned food, boxed food, blankets, candles. In case of fire we have a meeting place outside by one of our maple trees. Otherwise we would meet at my parents’ house so we would all be together.” Curtis and her family have survived several natural disaster emergencies. As a result, they are more prepared than most. Curtis and her family have thought about not only their food and water supply, but also a source of warmth and light. By selecting a meeting place ahead of time, they have also eased potential confusion and communication issues.

While Curtis and her family are much more prepared than most people, there are still a few things for them to consider, such as a first aid kit, a little emergency money, a hand-crank or battery powered radio and sanitation. If a power outage lasted more than a week, Curtis and her family might feel they hadn’t prepared enough. For many Mainers, the ice storm of ’98 knocked out power for almost two weeks!

Preparing for an emergency takes research, time and money. People are responsible for preparing for emergencies and are expected to help their neighbors when they can. “People should always have an emergency preparedness action plan,” Curtis said, “We never know what could happen.”