FEMA Urges People to Resolve to be Prepared in 2012

The Federal Emergency Management Agency wants everyone to make a resolution to be better prepared in 2012.   Administrator Craig Fugate says if you do nothing else, visit and book mark the page.

Fugate says the first step for preparedness is to develop a family communication plan. He says in an emergency, cell phone systems can be overloaded and texting or posting to a social network site may be the better way to keep in touch.  He says that also cuts congestion on the cell network to allow emergency calls to get through.

 Emergencies can strike with little warning, and unexpected situations can develop within an emergency.   Fugate says you need to know what you’d do if you had to shelter in place, or evacuate in a moment’s notice.   

Fugate says as we saw in Pennsylvania, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee came up and caused flooding in places that had been spared by Hurricane Irene.  He doesn’t think people were necessarily expecting that. He says even with a good forecast, we don’t always know what’s going to happen.

Fugate says emergency plans should include your pets and anyone in your household with special needs in addition to basic needs.

Fugate says if you have a plan, you can secure your family in an emergency then reach out to your neighbors.  He says he has seen in time and time again.  Across the southeast during the tornadoes, and during the tropical season all the way up to Vermont, a lot of the help people got came from their neighbors.   He says their neighborhoods were digging them out debris, giving first aid or providing comfort until emergency responders could arrive.

Busy Week for State House Committees

Unanimous votes in the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee have advanced two bills to the House floor.  A newly amended version of HB 955 would both extend and expand the Pennsylvania Fire and EMS Grant Program.  Gaming dollars currently fund $25 million in firefighting grants per year, but Chairman Stephen Barrar’s(R-Chester) bill would raise that to $40 million.  “It’s very important that we get this $40 million dollars into the hands of our fire companies, the great majority of them are volunteer companies,” Barrar says.  He notes that state gaming revenues have increased dramatically in recent years, but the program’s dollars have been constant.  The legislation would also reauthorize the program for another four years. 

The second bill to see action in the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, Tuesday, would raise Pennsylvania National Guard members’ minimum pay.  Under current law, National Guard members ordered into state service by the governor are to receive a minimum of $75/day.  “The minimum pay for state activated National Guard troops would be increased, it has not been done so for the past 15 years,” says State Rep. Doug Reichley (R-Lehigh), whose bill would raise that minimum to $100/day.  The Pennsylvania National Guard Association lists HB 1758 among its legislative priorities.  “Obviously, with the amount of work and strain we’re putting on our National Guard troops who are activated in state of emergencies, now is the time to recognize them for their service,” Reichley told the committee.

September is National Preparedness Month

We’ve just gone through Irene and Katia is churning in the Atlantic.  September is National Preparedness Month and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is reminding Americans to prepare their families, businesses and homes for emergencies of any kind.

Deputy Administrator Tim Manning says you need to know what your risks are, and have an emergency kit and a family plan ready for them. For example, most of the danger in a hurricane comes from flooding, not from the winds.  Once a storm passes, the danger is not over. He says you must understand what you need to do to protect yourself and family.  You have to be able to weather those few days while emergency workers are focused on rescue missions.

Manning says it’s also important to have multiple ways for family members to communicate. You can learn more about doing risk assessment and developing a plan at  Manning says his family also has at least three different locations they’ll evacuate to, or meet at, depending on road conditions.

Manning says community members can help each other, if they’re prepared. After Hurricane Irene, his community came together and cleared downed trees, getting roads reopened just a few hours after the storm blew through. Manning says that’s an important point about disaster resilience; having individuals with plans  to weather the disaster enables the community to come together and help each other.