National Preparedness Month: Staying Disaster-Ready

September holds National Preparedness Month, which reminds us of our responsibility to prepare for emergencies like the tragic 9/11 attacks. The Department of Homeland Security, with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), advocates and pushes emergency preparedness at home, school, the workplace, and communities.

Even if this monthlong event was triggered by one of the most horrific episodes of the 21st century, this occasion had and will commence various national, state, and local emergency readiness initiatives. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: September - Awareness Months, Days & Observances

History and Background

2023 national preparedness month
Photo by Ready.gov

National Preparedness Month has its roots in the aftermath of the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, a day defining the concept of a large-scale catastrophe. An initiative of FEMA within the United States Department of Homeland Security, this annual observance came to fruition in 2004. 

Since then, every September, agencies, families, and communities across the United States engage in activities promoting a culture of preparedness for natural and man-made disasters. 

Over the years, this initiative has adapted to the evolving landscape of threats. Recent years have seen an emphasis on tailored responses for unique individual and community needs, recognizing that not one size fits all. Customized emergency plans are developed for natural disasters, global pandemics, families, and communities.

The 2023 National Preparedness Month theme is "Take Control in 1, 2, 3." This year, the focus is on strengthening the disaster resilience of older adults, who are often more vulnerable during catastrophic events. Meanwhile, last year’s theme was “A Lasting Legacy – The Life You've Built Is Worth Protecting,” focusing on building the legacy of being prepared for the family.

Why Preparing Makes Sense

preparing for an emergency
Photo by Ready.gov

Understanding the importance of preparing for any disaster boils down to a simple reality: the uncertainty life can bring. Proper preparation can significantly reduce the fear, anxiety, and loss that come with disasters and ensure safety for everyone involved.

Here is the preparedness checklist as suggested by FEMA:

  1. Sign up for Alerts and Warnings: Stay informed with real-time updates about potential hazards in your area.
  2. Make a Plan: Be ready to act immediately and know what to do, where to go, and who to call in any disaster.
  3. Save for a Rainy Day: Build an emergency fund for unexpected expenses during crises.
  4. Practice Emergency Drills: Regular practice helps to act swiftly and confidently during a real disaster.
  5. Test Family Communication Plan: Ensure your family can stay in touch during a crisis by regularly testing your communication plan.
  6. Safeguard Documents: Keep your important documents safe from damage or loss.
  7. Plan with Neighbors: Collaborate with neighbors to build a community response plan; the more, the safer.
  8. Make Your Home Safer: Fortify your home to withstand minor and major disasters. 
  9. Know Evacuation Routes: Be aware of the safest and quickest routes out of your area if evacuation is needed. 
  10. Assemble or Update Supplies: Keep an emergency kit ready and up-to-date with necessary supplies.
  11. Get Involved in Your Community: Strengthen disaster resilience by participating in local preparedness activities.
  12. Document and Insure Property: Keep records and insurance of your property to expedite the recovery efforts after a disaster.

5 Facts On Why National Preparedness Month Matters

These are the key findings on the latest FEMA Data Digest: 2022 National Household Survey on Disaster Preparedness1:

  • 55% of adults have taken at least three preparedness steps, while 86% have taken action in at least one area.
  • Self-assessment reveals only 45% of adults feel prepared for a disaster. 
  • Nearly half of the country intends to start its preparedness efforts sometime soon.
  • Preparedness steps like "Plan with Neighbors" and "Get Involved in Your Community" are low.
  • Despite being at risk for certain hazards, over 30% of people in vulnerable areas have yet to make plans to prepare due to the perceived rarity of these hazards.

Efforts and Initiatives

resolve to be ready
Photo by Ready.gov

Safeguarding communities against disasters is a collective venture involving multiple agencies. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's ready.gov website is a crucial platform that provides vital free preparedness materials. It offers guidance on safety planning, creating emergency plans, helpful checklists, and resource materials to arm citizens with community preparedness.

Moreover, it's not a solo effort—agencies within the United States. Government works hand-in-hand to raise awareness and tackle various disasters. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are involved in public health, while the National Weather Service closely monitors on potential climate threats. 

On the charitable front, organizations like Direct Relief are bridging gaps. This non-profit makes significant strides in ensuring immediate healthcare needs are met, further highlighting the comprehensive nature of disaster preparedness in the United States.

How to Get Involved and Support National Preparedness Month

save for emergency
Photo by Ready.gov
  • Attend a Preparedness Workshop: These events typically offer practical information and hands-on activities to help you develop and fine-tune your disaster plan. 
  • Review and Update Your Emergency Plan: Assess your current disaster response plan, whether for your household or business, and make necessary updates. Encourage your other family members and friends to do the same.
  • Organize a Community Drill: Join neighbors or community organizations to run simulated emergency drills, helping everyone practice their roles in evacuation, earthquake-safe behaviors, or tornado warnings.
  • Share Your Preparedness Journey on Social Media: Use these platforms to encourage others by sharing how you're preparing, tag friends to challenge them, or share resources from trusted sources like FEMA. Don’t forget to add the official hashtags #NPM2023 and #TakeControl123.
  • Visit Ready.gov: Spend time to learn emergency preparedness facts, tips, and resources, especially the downloadable toolkits they provide each year.
  • Learn First Aid and CPR: Knowing how to respond to a medical emergency is an invaluable skill, and many organizations around the country offer low-cost or free courses in these life-saving techniques.
  • Check Your Insurance Coverage: Discuss your current policy with your insurance agent to ensure you have appropriate coverage for potential disasters in your area. This is also a great time to video or photograph valuable items in your home for documentation.

Conclusion

As we wrap up, remember that National Preparedness Month is more than an event. It's a call to action. Preparedness isn't simply a personal goal but a commitment to our communities' safety and resilience. The power of planning lies in transforming potential chaos into manageable situations. Because when disaster strikes, it might take a village to rebuild, but it also takes a village to prepare.

National Preparedness Month FAQs

1. What is National Preparedness Month?

National Preparedness Month promotes emergency preparedness and encourages individuals, families, and communities to prepare for various contingencies.

2. When is National Preparedness Month celebrated?

This event occurs all month of September.

3. Why is emergency preparedness important?

Emergency preparedness ensures that individuals and communities have the necessary knowledge, resources, and plans to mitigate the potential impact of disasters.

4. How can I get involved in National Preparedness Month?

Join local events and activities. Educate yourself and others about emergency preparedness. Create an emergency plan. Assemble an emergency kit. Finally, volunteer with organizations focused on disaster response and recovery efforts.

5. What are some essential items to include in a disaster kit?

Always prepare water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit, a battery-powered radio, medications, important documents, cash, and a cellphone charger.

Pin Me:
Pin Image Portrait National Preparedness Month: Staying Disaster-Ready

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash
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