National Preparedness Month's Blog

The Ready Campaign's National Preparedness Month Blog is a forum for news and important information about emergency preparedness.
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September 25, 2008

Keeping Our Pets Safe

I'm a high school student in Northern Virginia, and, although I see how much devastation a disaster can cause in other areas of the country, our community generally doesn’t get hurricanes, tornados or wildfires.

Of course, we hear about tsunamis, floods, or fires, but they seem far away, unrelated to my day-to-day life. If I pay attention at all, I only hear about the pain and loss to humans, but not what happens to their beloved pets in the aftermath of a disaster.

All that changed for me when Katrina struck Louisiana and Mississippi. My mom, who works for The Humane Society of the United States, went down to help the four-legged victims who were also in desperate need of attention. She helped with everything from going into the city and breaking windows and doors to bring animal victims to safety to matching the descriptions of beloved cats and dogs with their owners to grooming horses and cleaning their manes and hooves. She tried to give all of these animals some dignity in the middle of chaos. It really struck me that I had no idea how my family would care for our pets in an emergency but I was certain, I didn't want my pets, or those of my friends and neighbors, to end up like these dogs, cats, horses, and even parrots and iguanas had.

Our pets are a huge part of our family that we could never leave behind. We have two dogs and a horse that is boarded about an hour away from our home. I know that if an emergency happens that they are not all going to fit in the back of our SUV. And even if they did, I knew from the reports from New Orleans, I wouldn't know where we could go. So I began to form a plan. But then I thought, I have a plan for us, but what about Obie, the cat next door? Or Jenny, the dog, that lives down the street?

I decided to organize an Emergency Preparedness day for my community. I knew I couldn’t change the world, but with this little effort I might encourage my friends and neighbors to consider developing a plan so, unlike some of the New Orleans residents, they, and their pets, might have a better outcome, if disaster struck. I chose a nearby park and called the police, our animal control agency, FEMA and our local County Supervisor, as well as the Red Cross, and asked them to help me encourage our community to develop a plan. I also distributed Ready pet brochures to everyone who attended.

What I found, even after Katrina, is that everyone had questions and the answers weren’t easy to find. The toughest was what are the emergency evacuation routes? I had to talk with the state's Department of Transportation to get this information. This shows the importance of thinking ahead and really planning in advance.

To make sure my horse was well cared for in an emergency situation, I got her micro-chipped so my phone number, her vet and several emergency contacts were stored in a secure database. This is a very simple step that can ensure your pets will be returned to you if they get separated from your family. I also now plan to spray paint my phone number on her if I am ever separated from her. She may not be pretty, but if someone finds her I know I have a better chance of bringing her home.

The other thing my family did was to add extra pet food and supplies to our emergency supply kit. My family was featured in an instructional video for that explains how to deal with emergency preparedness for pets. You should check it out.

I think the thing I really learned from Katrina, is that, like my family, there are many Americans who consider their pets a part of their family, and they will protect them as they would a son or daughter. What we need to do, in our families, communities, and country is to be responsible and plan for our entire family, which includes both our two- and four-legged members, so that if, and when disaster occurs, we all are cared for and can survive. I hope, in some small way, I have helped my community achieve this goal.

Cricket Clayton

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September 23, 2008

I Know My RQ. What’s Yours?

As a woman in her late twenties, I wholeheartedly embrace the Scout motto of "Be Prepared." In my oversized tote, I always have on hand the essentials: Blackberry, toothbrush, nail file, band aids, hand sanitizer, umbrella, a good book and tunes, and comfortable shoes. But as I have discovered recently, I am woefully unprepared for a disaster.

My organization, the Council for Excellence in Government, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to promote improved government performance, citizen participation in government and public-private partnerships. Since 2002, we have been a leader in examining issues of homeland security and emergency management from the citizens’ perspective. As part of this initiative, we developed the Readiness Quotient(RQ) survey in partnership with the American Red Cross, the Department of Homeland Security and Citizen Corps.

The RQ is a simple, free tool that assesses your level of preparedness. The ten questions on the RQ test are the most predictive of an individual, family or community's preparedness for a weather emergency, natural disaster or terrorist attack. The test takes about a minute to take, and when you receive your score, you're automatically given a list of things to do to become better prepared.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm not very prepared. In fact, my RQ score is a 3 (definite room for improvement). But thanks to, I have a handy list of steps I can take to make myself more prepared like preparing a Disaster Supply Kit and creating a family communication plan.

The RQ survey is not just for individuals. Local governments, businesses and community groups can use the tool as well. By using the RQ, organizations can collect and retrieve preparedness data specific to their population; obtain a benchmark score that they can sue to address gaps; plan education and training; and track progress over time. To get a test for your community, just send an email to

As the recent hurricanes have shown us, the need is now for individuals and families across the country to get prepared. So please take a moment today and log onto And don't forget to share the test with your friends and loved ones.

Samantha Donaldson, Outreach and Communications Director, The Council for Excellence in Government

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September 22, 2008

All Americans Deserve to Understand Disaster Preparedness Information

A recent survey conducted by the Home Safety Council (HSC) found that while 58 percent of respondents have personally experienced a disaster, very few have taken action to prepare for a future, unforeseen emergency. In fact, only 25 percent of those polled have assembled kits with basic emergency supplies including water, food and clothing.

Part of the problem may be that vital safety information is not reaching a large portion of the U.S. population because it is typically text-heavy and presented at a reading level that millions of American adults struggle to understand. It is estimated that approximately 93 million adults read English at or below basic levels. This group includes native English speakers, those who do not speak English as their first language and children.

As part of the Home Safety Literacy Project (HSLP), the HSC is working hard to put life-saving information directly into the hands of adults who may not be able to read or understand the safety materials that are widely available. In partnership with ProLiteracy and Oklahoma State University’s Fire Protection Publications, we have developed a suite of highly-illustrated disaster preparedness materials designed for easy reading by adults at all reading levels.

Primarily used with adults enrolled in literacy programs, the lessons learned through the HSLP Disaster Preparedness program are being put to good use in high-risk communities. In fact, the lessons hit home with Marvin Butler, an adult literacy learner from South Carolina, and motivated him to take action to prepare his family. He has utilized the lessons learned to gather the materials needed to ensure that he is prepared for all types of emergencies including fires and hurricanes. He also works to spread the word by encouraging friends and family members to do the same!

Thankfully Marvin has not been impacted by a disaster first-hand, but he is especially aware of how potential emergencies might affect his grandchildren, who are frequent visitors to his home. In his own words, Marvin says, “it’s best to be cautious!” Marvin has assembled a disaster preparedness kit that includes the necessary supplies, as well as enough canned food and bottled water to last for two to three weeks.

In recognition of National Preparedness Month 2008, HSC is offering a comprehensive suite of HSLP materials including disaster preparedness information and materials that can be easily understood by those who struggle to understand written English. Materials include: an interactive slide show, pictograms, a limited vocabulary reader, a communications plan tear sheet and an emergency supply tear sheet, all designed to reinforce disaster preparedness.

Home Safety Literacy Project Kit

Every American needs to be prepared for the unexpected – before disaster strikes. HSC applauds Marvin Butler for taking action as well as inspiring others to do the same. At the HSC, we believe that providing the easy-to-read and highly education materials of the HSLP will help Americans of all literacy levels plan ahead to make it through any type of emergency situation.

Meri-K Appy, President, Home Safety Council

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September 16, 2008

Valuable Lessons for our Children

Last week Americans reflected on one of the darkest moments in our nation's history, September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were that day, and I can tell you how I spent much of my day—battling traffic jams leaving downtown Washington D.C., where I worked, to get back to our school-aged children. My family didn't have a plan for emergencies then. You see, we had just moved to the D.C. area a couple of weeks before, we did not know neighbors, our boxes were still mostly packed, and our kids didn't have any idea where to go if Mom could not pick them up after school. One of my personal heroes of 9/11 was the school aide who would not go home to check on his own family until every single one of his charges had been claimed by a parent or caretaker.

How much things have changed since then! Today, our family has a supply of water, canned foods (and a can-opener) and energy bars, essential medications and first aid supplies, a crank-powered radio (although a battery-powered one with extra, fresh batteries would do nicely, too) and a couple of flashlights. And perhaps more importantly, we have an emergency plan, and we all know what it is.

We all want our children to feel safe in the world, and so, as parents, we are reluctant to discuss frightening ideas with them, like what they would do if a parent or caretaker could not pick them up at school or day-care. We don't want them to think about a storm so big that they might need to leave their home. But just as we buy life insurance to protect them if something happens to us, and get them the inoculations that protect them against serious illness, we protect our children best if we are prepared. In the context of emergency preparedness that means that they need to be prepared, too.

Who better to do this for our youngest children than their Sesame Street friends – who our kids know and trust? Sesame Workshop, together with the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Kids Campaign has developed a new bilingual initiative called "Let's Get Ready!" It is an interactive, on-line tool and resource, featuring Grover and Rosita. It aims to empower kids to prepare for emergencies by familiarizing them, in a non-threatening way, with what they would need to expect if an emergency happens.

I hope that you will share the friendly and essential information that "Let's Get Ready!" offers with your children and the children in your community. It will help them feel stronger, more capable, and more ready to deal with whatever life may bring their way. And isn't this one of the most valuable lessons that caretakers and parents can provide to our children?

Mrs. Meryl Chertoff

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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.