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Accinctus - National Preparedness Month 2013

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Thursday, 19 September 2013 17:28

National Preparedness Month 2013 Featured

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“You can be the Hero” is the slogan for this year’s 10th annual National Preparedness Month.   If you’re reading that first sentence and asking what National Preparedness Month is or just simply going “so what?” you’re certainly not alone.  Since 2004, our government and preparedness partners have encouraged Americans to prepare themselves, their families, and communities to be prepared for disasters.  A herculean effort for 10 years that has resulted in – well let me be totally honest – a big disappointment to me. 


Now, before you get too far ahead and start assuming anything, let me explain.  I’m not disappointed with the Ready Campaign or anyone who has worked on any activities for National Preparedness Month (NPM), far from it.  I appreciate their efforts and I think they’ve made a difference in many people’s lives.  My disappointment is with one word in this year’s theme, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.



I’ve been directly involved with NPM for the last 7 years conducting education seminars, teaching classes, writing articles, and working on awareness campaigns in both my professional and personal life.  In that time I have one major observation that ties in with my comment above and the root of my disappointment.  Although the word “hero” is wrongly used in our culture today in many cases, it’s not that.  My disappointment is YOU.


Yes, I said that – I’m disappointed in YOU (yep, the person reading that right now, don’t look around).  The key to all of this, the focus of preparedness, the entire purpose of 10 years of slogans like “Are You Ready?” or “You can be the Hero” is YOU and YOU are not listening and YOU are not prepared. 


I’m sure I’ve just broken many rules of writing etiquette in that last bit, and I’m sure some of you are either doubting I mean that or really ticked at me right now if you believe me.   Good. 


Now before you go hitting that back button cussing at me for being a jerk, let me explain why I say that.  In my lifetime I have personally experienced blizzards, hurricanes, power outages, tornadoes, a house fire and industrial fire, earthquakes, a terrorist attack, vehicle accidents, a hazardous material incident, countless medical emergencies, floods, and forest fires.  I am sure YOU and I are not different in that aspect.  If you were to list out all the disasters you’ve experienced I’m sure you would have a similar listing and maybe more.  In my career that has interwoven with preparedness and planning functions for 20 years I have consistently heard people say “I didn’t know that could happen,” or “I didn’t expect that.”  Go back to your list of disasters and ask yourself if you or anyone else has any reason to not realize that YOU have to be prepared because disasters happen; you’ve seen them and yet you’re not listening to your own experience. 


My second point – that YOU are not prepared – is also true; I know this because we (YOU and I) are alike and I will honestly confess that I am not prepared.  I learned this lesson last year when my family faced a possible evacuation during the Waldo Canyon wildfire that was about 10 miles from my home.  Despite all my planning and preparation, my training, and my experience I was not fully prepared to evacuate my family and all we would want to take from our home.  Reality is a good teacher and I learned that although I was prepared for some things I was lacking in some areas. 


And for those who are sitting reading this thinking “Ah but I’ve prepared my family because I have listened and taken steps to be ready” –I’m going to burst your bubble too.  You are not as prepared as you think you are.  Again, I know this from my own experience and I know we’re alike.  One year later after the Waldo Canyon Fire, my home was again threatened by the Black Forest fire here in Colorado.  This time the fire was much closer and only a few potential firebreaks and the amazing efforts of the fire fighters stood between my home and flames 4 miles away.  And despite learning from the previous fire and fixing problems we identified, we still found areas that we really weren’t 100% ready to deal with.  There is no such thing as perfectly prepared.


My last and most important point is this – YOU can do something to be better prepared.   Anything you do, no matter how small you think it is, can be beneficial in a big way if you have to scramble.  My personal lesson was the fires in back to back years; we were much more prepared for the second one just by taking care of a few more little issues (not perfect but significantly better).  The three easy steps that have been the key of National Preparedness Month for the last 10 years of having an emergency supply kit, putting together a family emergency plan, and being informed of what threats are most likely in your area – go a long way to keeping your family safe.  If YOU do anything in those 3 areas and take action you will be better able to react and protect your family.  If you’re going to be the hero, aren’t they who you really want to be the Hero for? 


For more information on how you can prepare your family check out www.ready.gov. 

As always – Be Aware, Be Prepared, Be Safe.

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