Are you prepared if disaster strikes? FEMA offers steps on how to respond

California Surplus Mart sells packets of water, with a shelf life of 5 years.
California Surplus Mart sells packets of water, with a shelf life of 5 years. File photo

Would you know what to do if a disaster struck your neighborhood? Would your spouse or your children know?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering a step-by-step approach this month to how to respond when disaster threatens. September is National Preparedness Month, and FEMA is rolling out a “Ready Campaign” that features specific actions individuals and groups can take to prepare for an emergency.

“We encourage people to get together with their family and figure out a plan for what they would do,” said Amanda Bicknell, a spokeswoman for FEMA’s Region 7, which includes Kansas.

The actions focus on four basic themes – one each week – that will be emphasized during the month:

How to reconnect with family after a disaster.

How to plan for specific needs before a disaster.

How to build an emergency kit.

How to practice for an emergency.

As basic as these steps may seem to residents of Tornado Alley, a FEMA survey conducted earlier this year revealed that half of those contacted had not discussed or developed an emergency plan involving what to do or how to reunite in the event of a disaster.

“We want people to think about ‘what if,’” Bicknell said.

Children should be taught how to respond when severe weather threatens, she said. Family members should know where to gather if they’re away from the house when a tornado strikes. Emergency kits that include nonperishable food and water and any necessary medications should be put together and kept in an easy-to-get-to location.

And it all should be done before an emergency looms, Bicknell said. Ignoring this important preparation because it hasn’t happened before or due to long-held myths or legends protecting a location from disaster – such as Wichita is “protected” from tornadoes because it is on the confluence of two rivers – is simply asking for trouble.

“Mother Nature has a way of disproving all myths,” she said. “We want people to take ownership of their own sustainability.”

The chances of surviving a disaster “and even thriving afterwards” increase substantially if people have prepared ahead of time and practiced their emergency plan.

“It’s so much better for children in how they recover emotionally” after a disaster, Bicknell said. “They had a plan and they know the adults are thinking ahead for them and putting some structure in place.”

Those wanting to know more about how to prepare can go to http://www.ready.gov/september for more information.

“It’s free,” Bicknell said. “You just have to take the time and do it.”

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.