When the Unexpected Happens

It was just a normal day. You woke up. You got dressed. You fed your family. The kids went off to school and you went to work. But you forgot to unplug the coffee pot. Your home and all inside were lost within minutes. When the unexpected happens, who will help?

Emergency management is addressed at the federal, state and local levels. The Maine Emergency Management Agency works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security, regional Emergency Response Teams, the Red Cross and private emergency recovery organizations to provide assistance in times of trouble. These resources are always available to you should you need them.

According to Todd Angerhofer of the Red Cross, most referrals for assistance come from first responders. When a referral comes in, the Red Cross races to respond in record time. “The goal is to get the team there in two hours,” Angerhofer said. “Once they get on site they do an interview with the family.” This interview helps the Red Cross to determine what assistance is needed.

Sometimes emergencies cannot be avoided. The assistance the Red Cross provides can be a blessing in times of need. The Red Cross, however, like most other emergency management organizations, believes strongly in citizen preparation. The Red Cross website lists 22 different types of emergencies and gives steps to prepare for them. Preparation depends upon the emergency. Angerhofer said, “It’s different for different disasters. For a hurricane you need a go-bag. For a fire, you have less than two minutes to get out of the house. You don’t go for your go-bag. You grab your kids and go.” Understanding the types of emergencies that may affect you where you live is important. “Contact your local Red Cross and ask them what disasters to be prepared for,” Angerhofer said. With expert advice, you can be sure that you will put your time, energy and money into the right kinds of tools and supplies.

Learning about emergency preparedness and implementing emergency plans in your own home will give you peace of mind and knowledge you can share with your neighbors. Those with a desire to learn more and to help their neighbors can volunteer their time to help. This fall the UMPI campus began a new Red Cross Club as an extension of the local Red Cross. According to Lisa Prescott, Red Cross Club adviser, students have the opportunity to help with blood drives, fundraising and other special projects. Currently, the Red Cross Club is assisting with the Smoke Detector Installation Program.

According to Prescott, this program is meant to educate the community about smoke detector expiration and routine maintenance. “These things have an expiration. They need to be changed every 10 years. The batteries might be working but the smoke detector is not,” Prescott said. Even though the batteries have been changed and the detector appears to be working, a smoke detector may not sound an alarm in the case of a home fire. Without a functioning smoke alarm, those two minutes you need to leave your home safety may be cut down to seconds.

The Red Cross and the UMPI Red Cross Club have wonderful, potentially life-saving information to share. By visiting the Red Cross website you can become more informed about different types of emergencies, you can create a plan or you can find contact information or volunteer your time. By becoming involved in the UMPI Red Cross Club, you can further your knowledge and help you community.

Being ready for an emergency isn’t just about stocking extra water and food. It is not just about setting a meeting place for your family. Learning about potential emergencies and partnering with organizations can provide you with useful resources and knowledge just when you need them. The knowledge you gain from participating in helping others may one day help you. Get involved. Get prepared.