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Officials urge caution during Preparedness Month

COVINGTON -- Georgia has seen its share of bad weather this year, with the tornadoes that hit in the spring and an increasingly active Atlantic hurricane season impacting the coastline. In addition, Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, and while federal officials said there have been no specific threats to the country, they are urging Americans to be cautious.

So it's only appropriate that September is National Preparedness Month, and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security's Ready Georgia campaign is encouraging residents to protect themselves from harm.

"Doing your part to be ready means preparing an emergency supplies kit. We want every Georgian to have at least 72 hours worth of critical supplies on hand at all times, creating an emergency communications plan with loved ones and staying informed about the potential threats in your area," said Gov. Nathan Deal.

Jody Nolan, deputy director of Newton County EMA, warns that locals shouldn't become complacent as the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 nears.

"Although we live in Newton County, a lot of people commute back and forth to Atlanta. It's not out of the question that some type of terroristic attack could happen in the metro Atlanta area. People tend to get a false sense of security simply because we live in the Southeast and there's been no history (of terrorist activity)," Nolan said. "Homeland Security has established it's becoming more and more widespread. Atlanta is one of the larger cities and we have one of the biggest airports in the world. Some people from Newton County spend a lot of time at the airport. If you're going to the airport on a regular basis, you have to be vigilant. If you see something, suspicious activity, if you see what might be a firearm, or an unattended package, don't approach it, notify security."

The same is true of large events, such as concerts or on public transportation, he said. Nolan cautioned not to judge a person based on appearance, noting that more and more terrorists are homegrown. Don't hesitate to report anything that appears out of the ordinary, he said.

Those traveling abroad should also be on high alert and before departing check the Homeland Security's Web site for travel advisories at www.dhs.gov.

Residents should also be prepared for natural disasters. Some affected by the hurricanes and tornadoes this year went without power for weeks at a time.

"There's nothing that guarantees the power company is going to get power on in a matter of hours or days," he said. "Electricity can be shut off for weeks, if not months, at the drop of a hat."

Families should have a plan in case of a power outage, Nolan said. That plan should include an emergency kit that contains 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.

It's also recommended to have a three-day supply of food and water on hand for each 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. Those who are on oxygen should have extra supply on hand.

"Every time we have a power outage, people call asking us to bring generators to power their oxygen machines. There's no way we can fill all those requests," Nolan said, noting that nowadays most people don't want to fool with the large cylinders that hold more oxygen but instead rely on portable containers.

Nolan also recommended reviewing insurance policies and knowing what your insurance covers as well as keeping an extra copy of the insurance policy at a separate location away from home. The insurance a building's owner takes out on the property will not cover damage or loss to renters' possessions, so Nolan recommended renters insurance for tenants.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Ready America campaign, National Preparedness Month was founded after Sept. 11 to increase awareness and encourage action for emergency preparedness nationwide. Marking the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the slogan for this year's campaign is: "A Time to Remember. A Time to Prepare."

For more information on the Ready Georgia campaign, visit ready.ga.gov.