In a time of many unknowns as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten our normalcy, hurricane season hitting its peak, and wildfires running ramped, there is so much that feels out of our control. However, there is one very important factor that is in our control – preparedness.
National Preparedness Month is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. Disasters can strike at any moment, with or without warning, which is why it’s so important to be prepared for unforeseen disasters all year long. Everyone knows the Red Cross helps people during emergencies, but you may not know that it’s also part of our mission to help you help yourself.
At the Red Cross, National Preparedness Month is an opportunity to create additional awareness and to inform communities of the resources the Red Cross offers before, during, and after a disaster.
One of the best ways to prepare is to consider the risks inherent to your specific geographic region. While South Florida prepares for hurricane season, Pacific regions prepare for wildfires, Midwest regions prepare for tornadoes, but all regions must remember to prepare for arguably the greatest risk: home fires.
The Red Cross offers a number of preparedness programs for all ages. Youth disaster preparedness trainings include Prepare with Pedro and The Pillowcase Project. These programs are designed for children from kindergarten through fifth grade with presentations focused on empowerment to understand and mitigate disasters.
Be Red Cross Ready, is a series of disaster preparedness trainings that include Preparing for Disasters During COVID-19, Home Fire Preparedness, and Older Adult Preparedness.
Despite the pandemic and the new virtual environment, the South Florida Red Cross staff and volunteers are offering these preparedness trainings virtually and at no cost for older adults, children, and their families to learn more about emergencies and what steps they should take to prepare. These online classes will be offered throughout the month and are available in English and Spanish. To register for a training in English, visit redcross.org/prepareSFL. Or to register for a training in Spanish, visit redcross.org/preparateSFL.
James Hagen is the Regional Preparedness Manager for the Red Cross South Florida Region. He started with the Red Cross as a volunteer in 1981 to educate others about water safety. He compares disaster preparedness to preparing for a camping trip and noted “think if one was interested in camping, you’ll know it takes a little bit of planning, you just don’t jump in the car and drive off to a mountain top and hope for the best. The thinking is that if you would go into the wilderness for several days or several weeks, essentially what you brought is what you’ve got.”
Preparedness may sound difficult or time-consuming, but it can be done in just three simple steps:
1. Get a Kit
Learn the essential supplies to put in your family’s survival kit.
2. Make a Plan
Plan effectively for you and your family in case of an emergency.
3. Be Informed
Understand which disasters are likely to occur in your area and what you must know to stay safe.
National Preparedness Month is the perfect opportunity to start or continue preparing for disasters big and small, especially during a pandemic when resources could be limited. Hagen quotes “because of the pandemic we have refashioned our programs ensuring the safety of our team and the safety of the public.” His motivation to become the Preparedness Manager for the region was his years of education, training, and experience as a volunteer that made him eager to learn more about preparedness. “When a disaster does actually occur, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to go out and help and be part of a solution,” says Hagen.
To stay informed about all upcoming disasters and receive alerts, download the Red Cross Emergency App.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer and help those in need when a disaster strikes, please visit redcross.org/sflvolunteer.
Written by Maria Arango