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September is National Preparedness Month

COVINGTON — From deadly tornadoes and dangerous wildfires to record flooding, Georgia has experienced its share of emergencies in recent years. And with the peak of hurricane season still to come, there is a chance for more severe weather in the months ahead.

To promote the importance of preparing before disasters strike, Gov. Nathan Deal — in cooperation with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security’s Ready Georgia campaign — is encouraging statewide participation in National Preparedness Month this September.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready America campaign, National Preparedness Month was founded after 9-11 to increase awareness and encourage action for emergency preparedness nationwide. Throughout the month, Ready Georgia will join a nationwide coalition of thousands of private, public and nonprofit organizations, each hosting local events and initiatives designed to motivate people to prepare their homes, workplaces and communities for emergencies of all kinds.

“To borrow a line from our latest public service announcements, ‘Today is the day before,’” said Charley English, director of GEMA/Homeland Security. “Disasters can strike quickly, often with no warning. That means we need to treat today as if it is the day before a disaster, and we need to take steps to prepare ourselves now. That’s a tough message, but it’s critical. It helps to have an occasion, a point on the calendar that reminds us to take action. That’s the idea behind National Preparedness Month and the activities that Ready Georgia and emergency management agencies across the state are organizing in September.”

Statistics from the National Weather Service reveal that from 1995 to 2012, weather-related events have killed at least 180 people in Georgia and injured countless others. But even in the wake of these threats, a recent survey reveals many people are still not prepared. The Ready Georgia campaign provides resources that make preparedness easy. By visiting www.ready.ga.gov and creating a Ready profile, Georgians can receive a tailored communications plan for the entire family that includes the specific amount of supplies to put in their household Ready kits. The website also offers local emergency contact information and an online toolkit to help individuals and organizations localize Ready Georgia’s message. For those with functional needs, the website offers emergency preparedness videos in American Sign Language, informational documents in Braille, large-print versions of promotional flyers and written transcripts of all audio/visual materials.

“The best way to survive a disaster is to become your own first responder by taking the necessary steps to prepare,” said English. “Ready Georgia provides all the resources needed to prepare for the unexpected, so I encourage our citizens to visit the website and participate in the various programs during National Preparedness Month.”

For more information, visit www.ready.ga.gov. For preparedness on the go, families can also download Ready Georgia’s free mobile app.

Ready Georgia is a statewide campaign designed to educate and empower Georgians to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, pandemic outbreaks, potential terrorist attacks and other large-scale emergencies. The campaign is a project of GEMA and provides a local dimension to Ready America, a broader national campaign. Ready Georgia aims to prepare citizens for maintaining self-sufficiency for at least 72 hours following an emergency, and uses an interactive website, free mobile app, broadcast and print advertising and public awareness media messaging to reach its audiences. Ready Georgia is also on Facebook and YouTube.

The Red Cross offers the following tips to stay safe during a severe thunderstorm:

• Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail.

• Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.

• Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.

• If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.

• If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.

• Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.

• Shut windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.

• Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing during a severe storm.

• If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

• If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall, isolated trees, and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.