By Adam Smith
After extreme weather conditions devastated the U.S. in 2011, federal, state and local emergency officials want residents to be ready for anything this year.
FEMA recently launched its annual “Resolve to Be Ready” campaign, which urges Americans to make preparedness a priority during the holiday season by making a new year’s resolution to be ready for disasters.
“One of the most important lessons we can take away from this year is that disasters can impact all of us, no matter what part of the country we live in,” said FEMA Regional Administrator Phil May. “Resolving to be Ready in 2012 could be the most important pledge you make this year.”
By making a resolution to take a few simple steps in advance, FEMA said, Americans can minimize the impact of an emergency on their families, homes or businesses. FEMA’s Be Ready website contains information, checklists and guidelines about how to put together a kit, make a plan and stay informed.
Daphne Ellison with the Limestone County Emergency Management Agency said there are several items that every homeowner should have on hand, including a battery-operated weather radio.
“People should not always rely on sirens,” she said. “Sirens are great, but when you have storms, you can have power failures and storms can also damage sirens.”
Ellison said it’s also important that every family create an emergency plan that can be enacted in case of any kind of emergency, whether tornadoes, winter storms or fires. She said waiting until a storm warning is issued is not the time to act.
“Have a designated area to go to,” she said. “If a tornado watch is issued, that should be your warning and the time to make plans.”
She also recommended preparing a disaster kit, which should include necessary personal and insurance information, water, canned goods, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, medication and other items like extra eyeglasses.
Residents are also urged to seek out the locations of available storm shelters, whether county-owned shelters, churches or a neighbor’s house. Ellison said know the quickest, safest route to the shelter and don’t wait until it’s too late.
Public storm shelters in Limestone County include:
• Good Shepherd United Methodist Church; holds 100 people;
• Goodsprings Community Shelter; holds 150 people;
• Lester Community Shelter; holds 100 people;
• Owens Elementary School; holds 600 people; open to public after school hours only;
• Pleasant Grove Volunteer Fire Department; holds 150 people; and
• West Limestone High School; holds 1,000 people; open to public after school hours only.
Ellison residents will most likely be more prepared for disasters in 2012 than in 2011 because the tornado disaster prompted the purchase of supplies like flashlights and generators.
“It’s still fresh on everybody’s mind. Even though some people didn’t have damage from the storm, people were without power for days, so they had a lot to think about,” she said. “I think a lot of people will be better prepared, though hopefully there won’t be a next time.”
For more information on disaster readiness, visit www.ready.gov or call the Limestone County EMA at 256-232-2631.