By Morgan Montalvo
This week, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency called on Americans to make personal and community preparedness a priority – and he’s concerned that few are responding, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
National Hurricane Center meteorologists now say a storm system forming in the Gulf of Mexico could increase in severity over the next five days and head toward the Texas coast.
Agency chief Brock Long’s admonition to develop "a true culture of preparedness" comes at time when, over the past two years, wildfires out West, recent flooding in South Texas, and hurricanes and tropical storms that have threatened or struck Texas and other parts of the Gulf Coast, as well as Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Eastern Seaboard continue to tax resources and manpower.
Forecasters are eyeing Hurricane Florence as it approaches the Carolinas and officials in the hurricane's projected strike zone have ordered one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history.
In a state such as Texas, with its fast-growing population, individual, family and neighborhood readiness are increasingly important, says Col. Kristopher Krueger, who commands the Texas State Guard’s 1st Regiment.
Readiness, he says, begins with “the basics,” including enough packaged or canned foods and water to last several days, a first aid kit, flashlights with fresh batteries, and a reserve supply of all prescription medications, stored in a box or other container and placed in an easily accessible location inside the home.
The Texas State Guard is the all-volunteer sister service to the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard. The State Guard deploys only within Texas to assist with disasters or other emergencies.
Krueger says during many of his State Guard deployments to disaster-ravaged parts of Texas, he has seen the bewildered look of residents who took for granted that something as routine – but potentially serious – extended power outage only affected a small area.
“The local grocery store went out of power and those folks didn’t take the opportunity early enough to have a few things in the house,” he says.
In as little as four hours, says Krueger, many refrigerated or frozen items can become unusable.
“You’re not going to have access to ice for very much longer, and opening and closing that refrigerator door when the power’s out is also going to start causing things to warm up in the ‘fridge itself, too,” Krueger says.
Federal- and state-level emergency planners also emphasize the importance of household and neighborhood readiness, in case a large-scale disaster overwhelms first responders and help takes hours or days to arrive.
Krueger says any family emergency plan should include specific provisions for children, as well as for elders living with a family or nearby.
“Think through that now, so that if an emergency ever happens you’re already prepared to respond to help that family member.
It’s a critical part of planning ahead,” he says. Young children, Krueger adds, will take disaster planning seriously if assigned age-appropriate, meaningful roles rather than pacified with games or electronic diversions.
For more on emergency and disaster readiness, go to: www.texasprepares.org