no avatar

September is Disaster Preparedness Month

Katherine Scoggins • Sep 4, 2012 at 12:36 PM

"There was terrible rain and wind, then a sound like a train coming through."

An hour later, neighboring houses had been flattened, roofs blown off, power lines down, trees uprooted, cars smashed, sinks and furniture scattered throughout neighborhood. Daylight revealed a sobering reality: the neighborhood was completely demolished. Dazed residents walked around their property trying to make sense of the devastation. Others held their children and spouses tightly. Hundreds of piles of rubble - some as high as rooftops - dotted the landscape with wood, glass, clothing, and an occasional stuffed animal.

Life as they knew it had changed forever. Over the next few weeks and months, disaster crews arrived to provide assistance. Volunteers equipped with chainsaws, mobile soup kitchens, representatives from insurance agencies and utility companies worked to help people return to some sense of normalcy.

Our area is no stranger to disasters of this magnitude. Almost every week, we see and hear reports of a tornado, earthquake, or flood. These are the "natural disasters." Explosions, hazardous material spills, an overturned school bus, a mall collapse are the newer, more sophisticated versions of disasters.

The Red Cross has a long history of assisting with house fires, tornadoes and floods, but "things changed on 9/11," says Glenda Bobalik, executive director of Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee. "After that event, there was a more multi-agency approach to disaster preparedness. The federal government - FEMA and Homeland Security - became more active in educating the country on terrorism and new forms of warfare."

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month and the Red Cross is on a mission to help people prepare for disasters of all types.

While federal, state and local agencies hold disaster drills regularly to develop and "try out" plans for large areas and thousands of people, it is important that smaller groups, such as families and neighborhoods, have their own plans in place.

"We have found that individuals who have a plan recover quicker and more successfully after a disaster," says Bobalik.

There are four steps to preparedness:

Get Informed.

Make a Plan.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.

Maintain the Plan.

Make a Plan is the emphasis for 2012.

"Communication with family members is critical to the success of any disaster plan," stresses Bobalik. "You could be anywhere - at work, at school, or in the car. How will you find each other? How will you know if your children or elderly parents are safe?"

The plan encompasses the obvious - choose a location to meet in the event of an emergency - and the less obvious, like making an inventory of possessions to help make claims in case of loss or damage and having a safe place to store copies of insurance policies and important family records (i.e., birth certificates, wills, etc).

Red Cross personnel are available to give presentations on all aspects of disaster planning for individuals, families, schools and businesses. For more information, or to arrange a presentation, please contact the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee at 423-378-8700.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos