National Preparedness Month's Blog

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September 12, 2008

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Launches Preparedness Campaign

As I write this, thousands of Americans are bracing for Ike that is churning in the Gulf of Mexico. In the thick of this very busy tropical season, the need to bring emergency preparedness to the top of our to-do lists is especially apparent. Even the most basic steps can make a difference during an emergency situation and, sometimes, the smallest bit of motivation is enough to make us understand the need to prepare. I applaud those who have already taken steps to get ready – whether they’ve built a kit, made a family plan or helped a friend or relative do the same.

I’m proud to report that Pennsylvania is also doing its part to get ready for any disasters that may be heading our way. While our state departments and first responders have done their part for decades to keep Pennsylvanians safe, we’ve decided it was time to pool our resources to develop a campaign that would serve and motivate Pennsylvanians to prepare for emergencies. Ready PA, a statewide campaign supported by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), encourages all Pennsylvanians to be informed, be prepared and be involved. And, it provides easy-to-use tools, such as emergency kit checklists and family emergency plan templates that can help individuals and families prepare for the unexpected. A statewide Wal-mart partnership will put kit contents literally at your fingertips as you do your regular shopping during the third weekend of National Preparedness Month in Pennsylvania Wal-mart store locations.

As you know, storms and other emergencies are often unpredictable. Emergency preparedness is the one thing all of us – individuals, communities or states – can control. I’d like to encourage other states and cities to develop their own emergency-preparedness programs. Ready is a great model for bringing your own initiative to life, and I invite you to learn about Ready PA as well ( If you’re looking to do something to make a difference on a smaller scale, I encourage you to get in touch with the Citizen Corps Council in your area and offer your help as a volunteer. When it comes to emergency preparedness, every step is a step in the right direction. As the folks watching and waiting to see if the action in the tropics will come their way – and those who have already lived through a disaster – can tell you, preparedness is priceless!

Robert French, Director, PEMA

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September 11, 2008

Making Strides in Preparedness

When we began to develop the Ready Campaign with the Department of Homeland Security shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, our research showed that there was a distinct lack of knowledge among the public about what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. However, the country was shaken with the realization that such a tragedy could happen on American soil.

Our campaign sought to reduce fears and address the information gap by educating individuals about specific actions they could take to protect themselves, their families and their communities in the wake of another attack. Since then, the campaign has evolved to an all-hazards approach. All types of disasters – natural and manmade – require several basic preparedness steps, including becoming informed, developing an emergency kit and making a family communications plan.

We knew when we started that fostering a culture of preparedness in our country would not happen overnight and would require consistent and ongoing messaging. Generating significant attitudinal and behavioral change takes time. Ad Council campaigns are testament to that fact. For example, it took more than two decades to encourage 82% of the population to buckle up (from 14% in 1985). And 25 years for "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" to encourage 68% of Americans to stop a friend from driving after consuming alcohol.

In just the first five years of the Ready campaign, we're already making significant progress in sparking behavioral change. Our most recent tracking survey (July 2008) found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans (58%) say they have done something to prepare for emergencies. This percentage has been rising steadily since 2005 when only 45% of respondents said they had taken any steps.

Even more significant, more Americans are taking the simple steps promoted in our advertising. The number of Americans that have developed an emergency preparedness kit increased from 44% to 53% during the last 4 years, and those that created a family emergency plan increased from 32% to 40%. Furthermore, has received more than 2 billion visits, more than 350,000 people have called our campaign's toll-free number and over 27 million Americans have downloaded the informational brochure.

This progress can be attributed to the extraordinary support from the media over the years, totaling more than $756 million in donated advertising time and space, as well as the participation of our wonderful national and local partners, including National Preparedness Month coalition members. This is a very integrated and comprehensive effort that extends far beyond advertising.

Together, we have been able to achieve noteworthy awareness and change. But we have much more to do to create a culture of preparedness and a PSA campaign can't accomplish this alone. Our research shows that the farther we get from a major disaster, such as Katrina, the more difficult the challenge. Complacency is on the rise and our latest data found that 52% of Americans don’t feel they will be personally affected by an emergency so they are not motivated to act. Unfortunately, this means that today we have an even greater barrier to change than we did when we started.

National Preparedness Month is essential. We need to mobilize communities and organizations throughout the country in communicating the need to prepare to all Americans.

Change will take time. But we're headed in the right direction and continuing to increase our nation's level of preparedness.

Peggy Conlon, President & CEO, The Advertising Council

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September 9, 2008

The Closer to Home the More Effective the Preparedness

As both a private citizen and a public servant managing preparedness programs at the State and Federal level, I have always believed that the closer to home we prepare for disasters the more effective we will be if those disasters occur. To that end, I make sure that my own family is prepared and I have strived to direct State and Federal efforts to local governments and volunteer agencies to make them integral to the preparedness effort and the primary response teams should disaster strike.

Let's begin at home, the first place we need to be prepared. One of the first things we need to do is determine our potential threats. These threats will vary depending on what part of the country you live in: hurricanes in the southeast and Gulf Coast States; snow in the northern states, particularly New England and the upper Midwest, tornadoes in the Midwest and so forth. Each family needs to know what the common threats are in their area and to a certain extent determine their preparedness actions in response to those.

On a general level, my family has taken the steps we advise all to take. Considering that first responders may not be able to get to your home for at least 72 hours and that electrical and natural gas services may be down for many days, we need to provide ourselves with the means to survive. We have a pantry well stocked with canned goods and other easily prepared foods. In fact we have more in the basement and could probably go for a couple of weeks with the extra food and water we have on hand. Having an adequate supply of drinking water is vital. We also have a first aid kit to treat injuries, a battery operated radio and of course several flash lights. Be sure to check the batteries in your flash lights periodically to make sure they are working. An additional precaution I have taken is to keep several bottles of propane available so that I can cook on the grill should the need arise.

In some disasters, we may not be at home but caught away from the house at work. For that reason I keep an emergency kit in my office with a change of clothes, a radio and most importantly a plan of where my family and I will gather in case of an emergency evacuation. Speaking of potential evacuations, it is imperative that a plan be developed for the family so that everyone's location is known and if necessary or desirable a pre-planned meeting place is defined and known by everyone. For just such a possibility, my wife insists that we keep a half full tank of gas in the car so that we can evacuate in case of an emergency. An emergency travel kit should also be pre-assembled for use in an evacuation situation and it would be wise to conduct training exercises.

While preparedness at home is vital, we do want to enlist the aid and assistance of local volunteer groups to respond to disasters and I, both in my position at FEMA and while Homeland Security Director in Maryland, advocated and worked to bring emergency preparedness as close as possible to the state and local jurisdictions. We are pushing resources out to the regions to be used by local jurisdictions for training, assessing and exercising. The closer to the people that the preparedness is being planned and executed, the better off we will all be.

In Maryland what worked really well was to work with the Governor's Office of Volunteer Services and we were the first state to have a Citizens Corp Council in every county. Using these volunteer organizations, we were able to put an infrastructure in place to prepare for potential disasters. We also worked with community colleges because they are great centers for adult learning and they provide a lot of non-resident training. In fact just recently Community Preparedness formed a partnership with the Association of Community Colleges to provide such training.

The real key to successful citizen preparedness is to keep it relevant and simple. That is why I like the Ready program so much. There is on-line information through the Ready NPM Blog to help individuals to prepare themselves for emergency situations. In the end we are relying on people to be self-reliant particularly in those disasters which overwhelm local emergency personnel and can delay assistance for 72 to 96 hours.

Dennis Schrader, Deputy Administrator, National Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency.

September 3, 2008

Making Emergency Preparedness a Part of Our Everyday Lives

The Ready Campaign is excited to bring you this new space aimed at starting a national dialogue on the importance of preparedness by providing insights from experts and real life stories.

As National Preparedness Month begins, many Americans’ focus is on the Gulf Coast region and states inward who have been battling Hurricane Gustav while Tropical Storm Hannah brews in the Atlantic along with two other storm systems, Ike and Josephine -- a stark reminder of the continuing threat of emergencies in our country.

While much attention is given to hurricanes, emergencies happen in communities across the country daily from power outages to tornadoes to wildfires. But despite these every day occurrences, Americans still have not made preparedness a part of their everyday lives. By taking some simple steps to prepare, Americans will have the basic capabilities to take on any disaster and allow responders to focus on those who can’t take care of themselves first.

Specifically, the Ready Campaign encourages all Americans to have an emergency supply kit and “to-go” bag, to develop a family emergency plan, and to be informed about the types of emergency situations that could happen to them as well as about current conditions and what local authorities are advising resident to do in the event of an emergency.

As a working mother of two young children, being prepared has become a part of the fabric of my life from planning daily activities and tasks, to grocery shopping, to making sure our family is prepared to deal with the unexpected. While at times this planning can seem overwhelming, at the end of the day, I know I am in a position to make smarter decisions if I’m ever faced with a serious situation because my family and I have discussed how we will respond if an emergency happens in our area.

A few months ago my four year old daughter experienced her first tornado while visiting my parents in the Midwest. The sirens were loud – not to mention the thunder – and we were sequestered in my parent’s basement for much of the evening. At first she seemed anxious, but then realized she was safe and turned her attention to the television where she asked a million questions as she listened to the weather reports.

Since that visit, she has been very interested in the daily weather reports and always wants to know where certain places are in the country that are experiencing different types of weather conditions. As a result, our family has allowed her to become a part of our emergency planning process making her comfortable, confident and prepared for dealing with the unexpected. Being prepared has now become ingrained in her life.

Preparing for emergencies needs to be part of all of our lives whether dealing with a house fire, a flood or a category three hurricane, we all need to be our own first line of defense. So as we kick off the fifth annual National Preparedness Month, I encourage you to reflect on how prepared you and your family are – and make being prepared a part of your everyday life.

Erin Streeter
Director, Ready Campaign
U.S. Department of Homeland Security


June 23, 2008

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