Today as I write this on September 11, 2023. I feel it appropriate to remind others that September is National Preparedness Month. This was established in 2003 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I have personally observed those who roll their eyes slightly annoyed at the campaign. However, I am here to tell you it is not to be taken lightly. If the 9-11 event of 2001 did not alter your perception of self-reliance and situational awareness, I am not sure what will.
Most Americans recall where they were that horrific day. In addition, others may remember how hurricanes such as Ian in 2022, Sandy in 2012, Katrina in 2005, or the recent wildfire in Maui impacted their lives.
I personally lost seven co-workers in the towers that day. Six I worked with personally at different times during my career. One met her fiancé while they both worked for the department I managed. Everyone has a connection somehow from that day. Many experienced a first-hand loss and others, as an American and basic human sensed the losses as if they were their own.
Additionally, I have had other personal experiences with unexpected emergencies. I traveled to Manhattan for a day work trip with only my laptop and the shirt on my back. I walked off an elevator into a cab and did not make it to the first traffic light before realizing that the entire city had encountered the second-largest blackout in North East history in August 2003. I got out of the cab and walked block after block in 90-degree temps without water, without a cell phone, and not knowing where I was heading. The sea of people flooded the streets getting out of work at 5 PM walking elbow to elbow. The only way to get home was to walk. The problem was I lived in Massachusetts. That was the day I vowed to always be prepared. Never again was I not going to be able to survive on my own. I vowed to always carry on my person what I would need to handle most situations.
Each individual needs to learn to be responsible for oneself. We cannot always rely on the safety of our National Guard, Power Linemen, Police, Fire, Doctors, and Nurses. We need to do our part to take responsibility to respond to our immediate needs at all times. This includes at the workplace, school, grocery shopping, or away on vacation.
One would easily agree that we cannot live in fear, nor should we. However, we can now take simple steps and actions to help and possibly save our lives. I encourage you to spend time reviewing the various Tool Kits, Animal Graphics, Disabilities Guides, and Older Adult references on sites such as ready.gov, fema.gov, redcross.org, or environmental emergencies information at epa.gov. Each site has extensive checklists, contact phone numbers, and additional links to help you and your family get prepared for the unexpected.
FEMA sets a theme each year to promote self-reliance. This year it is Take Control 1,2,3. It focuses on preparing the older adult community for disasters. In 2022 it was to help establish a lasting legacy for you and your family in preparedness. If you begin to take action now, others in your family and extended family may follow. Setting an example and teaching your children simple things such as keeping a flashlight next to each bedside or storing extra water in the home will be a great start. Mentoring now can set the tone for their future.
In the current tumultuous political climate and the endless changes in weather, things happen and will continue to do so. Our population is too vast to expect municipal resources to arrive at our rescue in a timely manner. The workforce and resources are strained and it is up to us to do what we can now to stand strong against fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, political unrest, disruptions in our supply chain, pandemics, war, and terrorists. It can be a cruel world but there is no doubt a smart, loving, and capable population is out there that can do the right thing now. As they say… “Put your oxygen mask on first to then help others”. Prepare now so you can help others in times of need.
By Lyn MacLean