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This is National Preparedness Month – Are You Ready?

As thousands of people deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, National Preparedness Month, which starts today, is an opportunity to remind people of the importance of being ready for emergencies and steps that they can take

The three key steps to preparedness are Build a kit, make a plan, and be informed.

An emergency preparedness kit should include enough supplies for at least three days. Supplies should include water (one gallon, per person, per day), nonperishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a 7-day supply of medications, a multi-purpose tool, sanitation and personal hygiene items and copies of important personal documents. The Red Cross also recommends having at least two weeks worth of supplies at home. A variety of emergency preparedness kits, first aid kits and other supplies are available at

All members of the household should work together on an emergency plan. Each person should know how to reach other members of the household. The plan should also include an out-of-area emergency contact person, and where everyone should meet if they can't go home. People should be informed about what types of disasters are most likely to occur where they live and how local authorities will contact them in a disaster. Every household should have someone take First Aid and CPR/AED training to be able to respond to health emergencies at home in case advanced medical help is delayed.

A recent Red Cross survey showed that more and more people are using online news sites and social media platforms in an emergency to gather information and let their loved ones know they are safe. The Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Ad Council and Google Crisis Response recently launched a new preparedness web resource, Get Tech Ready, which teaches people how to use technology to prepare, adapt and recover from emergencies or disasters.

“During Hurricane Irene, we saw people using new technologies in many ways, whether it was thousands of people downloading our new shelter finder app or others using our Safe and Well site and social media to let their friends and family know they are okay, ” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross. “People now have more resources at their fingertips to use before, during and after emergencies.”

Get Tech Ready teaches people how to send updates via text and internet from their mobile phone; how to store important documents in the cloud or on a flash or jump drive and how to create an emergency information document using the Family Emergency Plan template in Google Docs or by downloading the ReadyFamilyEmergencyPlan.

Studies show that up to 40 percent of businesses fail following a natural or man-made disaster. The Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program is a free, self-paced, web-based membership program that helps businesses and schools measure how ready they are to deal with emergencies, and gives customized feedback on how they can improve their efforts.

No one can predict where or when the next large disaster will strike, but preparedness steps taken today can save lives and livelihoods tomorrow. People can contact their local Red Cross to learn what steps they should take to be ready when emergencies strike.