Penn State Extension marks emergency preparedness month

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated September as National Preparedness Month, and an emergency-response expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences said Pennsylvania residents should join the country in planning for disasters.

Created in 2003, National Preparedness Month is intended to remind Americans that taking simple precautionary measures can help them to anticipate and survive emergencies in their homes, businesses and communities. David Filson, emergency response and preparedness coordinator for Penn State Cooperative Extension, said it's important to assemble a disaster kit with enough food and supplies to last three days.

"Typically, local and state emergency-management agencies can assess a disaster situation within three days and put in place resources that can help individuals," Filson explained. "But for those first three days, it's critical that you're able to care for yourself and not look for help and support from outside agencies.”

Filson is Pennsylvania coordinator of the national Extension Disaster Education Network, which is cooperating with Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross and several other disaster-relief agencies to disburse emergency-management information through brochures, fact sheets, presentations and other resources. The goal, Filson said, is to educate families to build a disaster kit for use in a number of situations. "Whether they're stranded in their home with no power or if they have to leave suddenly due to flooding or other emergencies, they can be safe and secure for several days without assistance," he said.

Filson said families also should prepare a family communication plan with a predetermined procedure for re-contacting other family members if they get separated by disaster.

"If an incident occurs and family members have to separate, they should each know how they would communicate using a designated out-of-town third party, so they can assure each other that they're safe," he said.

Penn State Cooperative Extension educators across the state have access to fact sheets, check lists and other materials devoted to emergency readiness. Information also is available online at http://emergingissues.cas.psu.edu//EMERGENCY/disaster.html. But the challenge for most citizens, Filson said, is the unspoken assumption that disasters are things that happen to someone else.

"For the average individual or family, the hardest part of emergency preparedness is overcoming the notion that they never have to be prepared," he said. "We're encouraging people to just take a few minutes and look at the materials and at least consider doing some emergency preparedness activities. What do they have on hand in the event that the power goes out or they can't get to a grocery store? Can they be on their own and independent for about 72 hours? It's kind of like an insurance policy: You hope you don't need it, but it only takes one time to be caught unprepared by an incident to make the investment worthwhile. And we're suggesting that folks make that investment in September."
 

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Last Updated July 07, 2011