Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Emergency preparedness starts at home

By Command Sgt. Maj. James Nelson, Jr.
Georgia Department of Defense
Published by the Marietta Patch
April 12, 2011

Despite the novelty and confusion of the winter storm that hit Georgia earlier this year, the National Guard lived up to its creed: Always ready, always there.

At the direction of GEMA, and while much of the state was frozen in its tracks, soldiers and airmen of the Georgia National Guard provided critical support to the Atlanta and North Georgia regions most impacted by the storm. This storm was an excellent example of how important emergency preparedness really is.

Due to the Guard’s readiness, we were able to quickly deploy humvees from several locations to transport staff members for two major hospitals. We were also able to provide humvees and drivers to assist Georgia State Patrol officers in their duties.

From an enlisted soldier’s perspective, I know that we were able to do all of this because our organization understands the importance of readiness–that we ensure, through our attention to detail and professionalism, our soldiers and airmen are able to perform in either their homeland defense or warfight missions.

National, state and local leaders continue to look to the National Guard to deliver readiness during times of disaster and emergency. When called upon, our readiness in key areas and ensuring our equipment is operational will dictate our ability to successfully execute the missions before us.

Preparedness takes staunch diligence before the event of an emergency. Part of being prepared for an emergency means first visualizing that event, then pre-planning your response to it. This holds true at every level, not just in the National Guard.

To see the importance of emergency readiness, one needn’t look any further than the current crisis in Japan. The Japanese government and her allies, particularly the U.S. military, have been working diligently to minimize casualties from that disaster and the resulting nuclear complications. Yet, with countless Japanese citizens displaced from their homes and government aid stretched to its limits, it’s not hard to understand why a family might have to be able to look inward for solutions.

You may need to survive on your own, for a time, after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. While local officials, relief workers, and even the National Guard will be on the scene after a disaster, they cannot reach everyone immediately. Help could come in a matter of hours, or it might take days. So, having an emergency kit for disasters is vital.

Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may also be cut off for days, or even a week or longer. Your family may not all be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance. What will you do without electricity? How you will contact one another? How you will get back together? What will you do in different situations?

Making an emergency supply kit and developing a family communications plan are virtually the same for both a natural or manmade emergency. However, there are important differences amongst potential emergencies that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Take it upon yourself to learn more about the potential emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them. It would also be worth your time to learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government.

In times of local disaster, you can always count on the Georgia National Guard for help, but knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make all the difference when precious seconds count.

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