Disasters can strike quickly and often without warning. During September, National Preparedness Month, the American Red Cross of Central & Western Massachusetts encourages all households to get ready for the next emergency or disaster.
"National Preparedness Month is a perfect time for families to create or update their preparedness plans," said Dawn Leaks, Red Cross Regional Director of Communications. "Having a game plan in place is essential for all households so everyone knows what they should do when an emergency occurs."
To celebrate National Preparedness Month, the American Red Cross of Central & Western Massachusetts is hosting and participating in several events to help the community be better prepared:
National Day of Service: The anniversary of September 11 is a day of history, emotion, and reflection for most Americans. Over the last ten years, this day has also come to symbolize the resilience, kindness, and unity of the American people. This year, in honor of 9/11, the Red Cross is partnering with HOPE worldwide, UMASS Veteran Services, and local veterans to observe the National Day of Service by going door to door, distributing fire prevention and disaster preparedness materials in vulnerable neighborhoods across central and western Massachusetts. This day of service is made possible by a grant from HOPE worldwide. Girl Scout Troops 40230 and Troop 40222 in Westfield were instrumental in getting the materials ready for distribution. Materials will also be distributed on September 8.
Big E: Red Cross Chapters from across New England will join forces to bring preparedness information to Big E attendees this year. From September 13 - 29 the Red Cross will have a booth in the New England building right across from the Cream Puffs! People can visit the Red Cross booth to learn how to get themselves and their families prepared. They can also answer preparedness trivia questions for a chance to win great prizes.
First Aid, CPR, and Babysitting Training Courses: All month long,the Red Cross is offering life saving courses that will help families prepare for emergencies. For course schedules, visit: www.redcross.org/cwm.
MAKE A PLAN: It is important that everyone in the household helps put the emergency plan together and knows what they should do if something occurs. Household members may not be together when a disaster happens - during the day many people are at work and school. The plan should include ways to contact one another and two predetermined places to meet - one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent people from returning home. People should also identify an emergency contact person from outside the area in case local telephone lines are overloaded or out of service.
Any emergency plan should also include decisions about where family members will go if ordered to evacuate and what route they will take to get there. It's a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed. If pets are part of the household, make sure to include plans for them such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.
RED CROSS APPS: The Red Cross has free mobile apps that provide information on what to do before, during and after emergencies including developing an emergency plan. "People can use the 'Make a Plan' feature in the apps to create their plan and then share it with their loved ones," Leaks said. "The preloaded content in the apps gives people access to vital information to use during emergencies, even if they can't connect to the internet." The apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.
OTHER WAYS TO GET READY: Another step to get one's household ready is to build an emergency kit in a container that is easy to carry so the family can use it at home or take it with them if asked to evacuate. It should contain a three-day supply of 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 emergency supplies at home.
Everyone also needs to stay informed about what types of disasters are most likely to occur where they live or where they plan to visit. It is also important to take a First Aid and CPR/AED course-a vital component of disaster preparedness in case emergency help is delayed.
For more information on how to prepare for emergencies, people can visit redcross.org/cwm.
Another way people can help ensure their community is ready for a disaster is to give blood. When an emergency occurs, it is the blood already on the shelves that is available to help patients who need it. Thousands of blood donations are needed every day for patients who need blood to help in their battle back to health. If someone would like to give blood, they must be at least 17 years of age, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health. Donors should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID with them. Some states allow 16-year-olds to give with parental consent.
To schedule a donation time or to get more information about giving blood, people can go to redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).