From tornadoes to flash floods and hurricanes to earthquakes, history proves that emergencies can happen unexpectedly and impact communities of all sizes. Many Georgians can attest to that, having experienced their fair share of severe weather in recent years. And with the peak of the hurricane season still ahead, there’s a good chance that we’ll face more severe weather before the year is out.
Your team at the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA) works hard to reduce the negative impact of natural disasters statewide, but it is impossible to eliminate the hazards we face daily. That’s why personal preparedness is so important, and why we’re asking you to make “someday” today by getting ready for emergencies now.
When disaster strikes, you are your own best first responder.
The good news is, research reveals most Georgians agree it’s important to be personally prepared for an emergency. According to our 2012 Ready Georgia survey, nearly nine out of 10 Georgia residents admit that preparation, planning and emergency supplies will help them handle a large-scale disaster. Unfortunately, that same study shows that only 17 percent are fully prepared for emergencies.
Unlike many things in our busy lives, being prepared isn’t an immediate necessity. Even if we acknowledge that it’s important, it’s easy to procrastinate and say we’ll do it “someday.” However, if we put it off, it’s likely that “someday” will be too late.
What happens if a tornado strikes while your children are at school or a family member is traveling? Would you know how to reconnect if you need to evacuate or if phone lines are down? Can your company stay in business following a fire, flood or other disaster? Do you have emergency supplies available?
In the last few years, Georgia has been hit by severe storms, extreme heat, a crippling freeze, deadly tornadoes and dangerous wildfires. For thousands of residents, these disasters have resulted in the loss of property and even human life. With this year’s hurricane season off to a record start with four named storms less than a month in, there is still ample opportunity for more severe weather in Georgia should a storm form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico.
Being prepared with plans and tools for survival can be as simple as a trip to the store or a 30-minute conversation with family members. To help you get fully prepared, GEMA created the Ready Georgia campaign. Since 2008, thousands of residents have logged onto ready.ga.gov to create a Ready Profile, giving them access to tailored checklists of emergency supplies and customized emergency plans.
According to our study, a majority of Georgians have already compiled a few of these essential items, such as a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit and a three-day supply of nonperishable food. However, less than half have a battery-powered radio, extra cash or emergency resources available for family members with functional needs.
There is no time like the present to take action for anything that might head our way. By having an emergency plan, being prepared with a kit of emergency supplies and staying informed about potential disasters, you are assuring the safety of yourself and the others around you should disaster strike.
We at Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division and GEMA will continue to provide an aggressive approach to preparedness, but no one can respond to your household quicker or better than you if you are prepared. So stop putting it off and make “someday” today.
(Pam Tucker is the director of the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division. Charley English is the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security.)