EMA wants all prepared for disaster

COVINGTON — However and whenever disaster strikes, preparation is key to making it through. In recognition of September as National Preparedness Month, officials with the Covington/Newton County Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency are urging residents and business owners to prepare a readiness kit that can easily be accessed during emergencies.

"One of the biggest challenges anybody faces, whether it's a manmade event such as a hazardous materials release, or natural, such as tornado or flood, is not being prepared. We recommend everybody try to prepare themselves with the essentials they need during these times of disaster," said Jody Nolan, assistant director for Covington/Newton County EMA. "It doesn't have to be catastrophic. For a single family to suffer a fire, if they have a kit put together it might be helpful."

The kit should include medications that are taken regularly, such as insulin or high blood pressure pills, if an additional prescription can be obtained from a physician. It should also include a first aid kit and cash.

"We've become a generation of plastic now. Nobody has any cash on them hardly anymore. If a storm moves through and knocks out power you won't be able to make normal purchases with a debit or credit card," Nolan said.

It's also recommended to have a three-day supply of food and water on hand, enough for every family member. Drinking water should be rotated regularly to keep it fresh while it is in storage. A battery powered radio and/or weather radio is also recommended. Important family documents that may be needed in an emergency should also be stored in the kit, Nolan said. The kit should be stored where it is easily accessible, perhaps in a closet located near the door, or on a shelf in the garage, inside a duffel or gym bag. Even if it cannot be reached when evacuating, public safety personnel may be able to retrieve it later, he said. Plus, it's better to have everything in one place than to have to go digging through rubble for multiple items, he added.

Also, he recommends learning an alternate route home. When a telephone pole broke and utility lines came down on Ga. Highway 162 recently, some motorists did not know another way to their houses, Nolan said.

Though Georgia weather is usually mild, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can occur.

"If a warning is issued, know what to do during those events. Don't just go to bed," he said. "Don't think the storm stops just because you go to sleep. People just become complacent because they have the theory that ‘This could never happen to me.'"

For more information on a readiness kit, visit www.ready.ga.gov. Also, visit www.facebook.com/readyga and become a fan to receive emergency warning updates. Civic groups and other organizations can request a free presentation on emergency preparedness from the local EMA by calling 678-342-5326.

Also this year, GEMA is focusing on preparing businesses for disaster response. More than half the companies that experience disaster shut down within two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To try and improve those numbers, GEMA is offering the Ready Your Business Guide. Customized for small to medium-sized businesses, the guide helps organizations develop a continuity plan for quick recovery in the event of a terrorist attack, a tornado, a fire or flood.

"Our state's economy is more secure when local businesses are ready to survive and recover," said Charley English, director of GEMA/Homeland Security. "Customers, investors and suppliers take businesses more seriously when they have a strong contingency plan, and here in Georgia, businesses are susceptible to a myriad of natural and manmade threats."

With the guide, an organization can create a planning team; assess its vulnerability; access a checklist of emergency supplies; and get other critical information on data protection, storage and recovery. The guide is available at www.ready.ga.gov/Your-Business.