FEMA: In 2012, resolve to be ready when disaster strikes

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By Andrew Velasquez III

FEMA Regional Administrator

The year 2011 has been an important reminder to all of us that disasters can strike anytime, anyplace. Within FEMA Region V, five states - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio - received a total of nine federal disaster declarations for severe storms, flooding, tornadoes, and severe winter storms. Ultimately 2011 proved that we all are susceptible to these hazards, no matter where we live. Taking the time today can ensure that you and your family are prepared when disaster strikes.

We all want the peace of mind of knowing that our families, our homes and our businesses are safe and protected from threats of any kind. And while we can't control when or where the next flood, tornado, earthquake or other disaster will strike, we can take responsibility for preparing our loved ones and properties for emergencies. Thinking about basic needs in advance of an emergency, like how you would get in touch with your loved ones, what supplies you need to keep in your home or your car, or even what types of risks you face in your community, could make a world of difference.

So as we reflect on the past year and get ready for a new beginning, we're encouraging all Midwesterners to be prepared by Resolving to be Ready for disasters in 2012. It's a New Year's resolution that is easy to keep - and could save your life.

First, make a family emergency communications plan with your family. How would you contact your family if you were separated during an emergency? Have you already established a meeting place in the event that you are unable to communicate with family members? During the holidays, take a moment to sit down with your family and come up with a communication plan to deal with these kinds of scenarios.

Second, build an emergency kit for your home, office, and car. What if the roads were so bad, that you had to stay in your office overnight? It would be helpful to have supplies ready for the unexpected, such as food, clothes, and medications. In the New Year, treat yourself to a shopping trip dedicated to building a few emergency kits. You can find a list of suggested items on www.Ready.gov.

Third, know the risks in your community. In this region, we experience a wide variety of hazardous weather, such as severe winter storms, snow and ice, flooding, tornadoes, straight line winds, and extreme hot and cold temperatures. You can find out more about each of these types of hazards at http://www.ready.gov/beinformed.

So, if you have not taken the steps to keep you and your family prepared for emergencies, please take some time this holiday season and resolve to be ready. Take the pledge or learn more information at www.ready.gov/pledge - and encourage the rest of your community to join.

Andrew Velasquez III is the Regional Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region V which serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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