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Have a plan to be ready

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- I know that the chief's column usually is a commentary about core values or leadership, or any number of other subjects like that. This month, this chief is not going to do that. Instead, I would like to talk to you about preparing yourself and your family and friends for a disaster.
 
In the last few years the 127th Readiness and Emergency Management Office has given out multiple pamphlets to assist you and your family with this process. For example, in 2006 we gave out the "Are You Ready?" pocket-sized books and in 2011 we gave out the "Everyone Should Be Ready...Are You?" booklets. Both of these documents have great information about preparing for and responding to various disasters that are either man made or natural. However, neither of these books does anything for you if you left it at work or just threw it into your "Guard Bag" and have not read nor shared the material with your families.

If you haven't had the time to look through these or have actually misplaced them, let me give you a brief synopsis of what you need to think about to create and prepare a survival plan for some worst-case scenarios.

First, know what hazards you face. Michigan is a rather milquetoast state when it comes to disasters; we have snow storms, thunderstorms,  floods and occasionally a tornado.  We aren't going to have to plan for volcanic activity, tsunamis and hurricanes, and earthquakes that twist the highways into a braid. 

However, we do need to think about daily news-like events that if happening to our families will have disastrous impacts.  For instance, think about a house or apartment fire and how you will handle that situation (fire extinguishers available, evacuation points, insurance). You need to be prepared for power outages and how are you going to handle having no power for a couple of days (staying warm or cool at home, pets and kids issues, communication, cooking)?

At work, at school, and now more than ever when in public, you need to consider an active shooter scenario and how you would respond.  Have you discussed with your children what to do in that situation (knowing exit locations, being cognizant of surroundings and people acting strangely, where to take cover).  Remember those fun activities in school where you are read a story about an event or look at a picture for a minute and then are asked questions to see what you recall?  These simple tests are a great way to keep you and your family alert to everyday situations.

During disasters, inevitably families are separated. Do you have a plan of how you will communicate with your family, or a planned meeting location set? If you have children, have you made arrangements with trusted neighbors or friends to get and watch your children if you are unable to. Do those people and your children know your family's "code word" so that your children understand that it is okay to leave school or home or daycare with them? I know that it is cliché, but it does take a village.

Have a plan. Make sure that your plan is talked about with your family, friends and neighbors and that the plans match up, don't conflict and are achievable. Your community has a disaster plan, too. You should know where and how to access it for your own review.

Lastly, I encourage you to "be prepared". I am not talking about going to ENDOFTHEWORLD.com and spending hundreds of dollars on freeze dried water. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there right now who will tell you what you need to be prepared. I will say that you need to review your personal plan, do a little research and find out what will work for you and your family and what you may still need. Remember, you are trying to manage risk not eliminate risk.

The pamphlets that I spoke of earlier in this article, Websites such as www.ready.gov or http://do1thing.com, http://www.michigan.gov/michiganprepares  and county or community Emergency Management office Websites are all great sources of information to get you started. Do a little bit of homework, get your kids involved.

Remember, everyday people like you are always the first responders during a disaster. Be ready.