Op-Ed

Post-9/11, prepare for every emergency

Last week the nation remembered those lost and injured during 9/11— one of the darkest times in American history. We also pondered how to be better prepared for future emergencies.

The commonwealth and Central Kentucky have not been immune to disasters in recent years. Ice storms, flooding, severe cold and extreme heat all cost the state millions of dollars in lost business revenues, damage to property and loss of life.

Nationally, there have been outbreaks where dozens of tornados and severe storms devastated entire communities. The recent earthquake in Virginia shut down power plants, created transportation snarls and brought communication networks to a near halt.

September is National Preparedness Month, a time of increased awareness founded after 9/11. For citizens and business owners, it is time to prepare and renew emergency plans.

Lexington's Division of Emergency Management asks that residents prepare and plan for the possibility of going without electricity, water service, access to supermarkets and local services for several days. There are three simple steps to preparedness:

Be aware: A battery-operated NOAA All-Hazards weather radio is the best way to be aware of dangerous weather conditions. A battery-operated radio and/or television will also keep you informed in case of an emergency. The Division of Emergency Management's Web site (www.BeReadyLexington.com) has valuable information on conditions in an emergency and how to be fully prepared.

Get a kit: Keep enough emergency supplies on hand for you and those in your care. This includes non-perishable food, water, first-aid materials, prescriptions, a flashlight with extra batteries, a wind-up or battery-powered radio. A complete list of supplies for a family emergency kit is available on the division's Web site.

Make a plan: Discuss, agree on and document an emergency plan with family members or those in your care. Work with neighbors to have a neighborhood emergency plan that includes checking in on one another. Designate an out-of-state emergency contact — a friend or relative — who will coordinate family messages. Local calls may be difficult to make during an emergency while long distance calls may go right through. Text messages may go through when voice circuits are busy and overloaded. Program cell phones with an ICE (in case of emergency) number that police, fire and emergency responders will recognize if you're unable to respond.

Remember that police, fire and rescue personnel may not be able to reach you quickly during a disaster. While a downed tree, flooded street or power outage may be your first priority, it may be hours or days before your situation is addressed, due to conditions or situations in other areas that seriously threaten life and property.

The most important step you can take in helping local responders is to be able to take care of yourself and those in your care for the first 72 hours of an emergency.

The more people who are prepared, the quicker the community will recover.

The Division of Emergency Management has several ways to reach out to the community with preparedness and response messages. Citizens can bookmark www.BeReadyLexington.com.

Follow our Twitter account at www.twitter.com/lexkyem. Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LexingtonKYEM. Or call us at (859) 258-3784.

Our preparedness staff can put together a presentation on emergency awareness for your neighborhood association, civic group, school or other organization.

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