Penn State Cooperative Extension promotes emergency preparedness

University Park, Pa. -- Disasters often hit unexpectedly, leading to injuries, deaths and property damage. But taking a few steps to prepare for potential emergencies can help keep you and your family safe.

To encourage families, businesses and communities to plan for disasters and emergencies, Penn State Cooperative Extension and the national cooperative extension system have joined with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Red Cross and other organizations to observe National Preparedness Month in September.

"Disasters annually kill hundreds or even thousands in the United States, while causing an average of $52 billion in damage -- or $1 billion per week," said David Filson, emergency preparedness and response coordinator for Penn State Cooperative Extension.

"The number of federally declared disasters more than doubled during the 1990s," Filson noted. "And that creates a growing need for planning and preparation, which often can help to reduce the risk of catastrophe for families, homes and businesses."

One of the most basic steps in emergency readiness is to develop and practice an emergency plan for your family, according to Filson. "Such a plan will establish how you will communicate with family members if you become separated, where you will meet when it's safe to travel, what evacuation routes are available if needed, and who to contact in your community for more information," he explained.

Also important is preparing a disaster "go-kit" containing essential supplies for your home, office and car. "During emergencies, you may not have electricity, and you might have to leave your home for several days," Filson said. "A disaster go-kit will have at least three days' worth of nonperishable food, water, medications and other essentials."

Filson pointed out that your emergency preparation and response may be more effective if you stay informed about the different threats that could affect your community. "These could include weather emergencies such as flooding or tornadoes, industrial or transportation accidents, disease outbreaks or even terrorist attacks," he said.

Additional information about emergency preparedness, including fact sheets on how to prepare a disaster plan and emergency supply kit, is available from county offices of Penn State Cooperative Extension. (Find your local office at http://www.extension.psu.edu/extmap.html online.) Information also is available on the Web from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences -- online at http://www.cas.psu.edu/docs/biosecurity/EMERGENCY/Default.html -- and from the Extension Disaster Education Networ, at http://eden.lsu.edu online.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009