"Be Informed": National Preparedness Month

It's National Preparedness Month, and the American Red Cross wants to make sure you're prepared for the next emergency or disaster. Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed.

By Clare Bultmann, American Red Cross AmeriCorps Member


I don't know about you, but when I do things I like to be informed about what’s going on. When preparing for an interview with a company I always like to know everything about them that I possibly can. It’s good to know the business they do and the people they are involved with, especially when preparing for possible questions and scenarios that might come up. These questions could be about you, the job, and the company as well as past experience you might have. Or, for instance, if you are going to have a child, you want to be aware of pros and cons and things to be ready for in order to better take care of them.

Here at the Red Cross – “Being informed” means knowing what kind of  emergencies or disasters may occur in the area in which you live. The St. Louis area is susceptible to severe storms, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and winter storms. As we all know, St. Louis is positioned near the mighty Mississippi River, an area which is an easy target for flooding. Also being part of “Tornado Alley” is a major factor, where whether you like it or not you're going to see lots of them! What's crazy about tornadoes is that they can happen at any time of the year. Most of us, including myself, probably don't think about tornadoes happening in the winter, but wouldn't you agree that we were all surprised by the New Year’s Eve tornadoes in 2010. Normally in the winter we are preparing for winter storms, such as heavy snow and ice storms that often occur in the St. Louis area. One natural disaster that is very possible for St. Louis residents to experience is an earthquake. Until the earthquake that happened in April 2008, never once had I thought about an earthquake occurring where I live. I always thought that sort of stuff only happened in California! Boy was I surprised when I was woken up in the middle of the night by alarms in my dorm room, to shaking glass and closet doors! St. Louis is located on the New Madrid Fault. The New Madrid Fault is active, therefore there is always a possibility of an earthquake happening that could result in catastrophic destruction and unimaginable death; a true disaster. I don't know about you, but I feel much better being prepared for these disasters. Not only is it important to know what types of storms are possible in your area, but it is also necessary to know what the effects of these disasters may be.

Being informed can be as easy as watching your local news or listening to your local radio stations for information and updates as to what weather conditions might be arising at that moment in your immediate area. It would be great to have a weather radio to notify you of weather alerts in your area. Another good means of being informed about current weather is to sign up for alerts through different weather apps available on smart phones. It's quick and easy to download a weather app. You just tell it your location, allowing it to notify you about what is going on. If you're like me, I keep my phone around me almost all of the time. The Red Cross preparedness apps, like the First Aid App or the Earthquake App (which was just launched on Tuesday!) are also great. I'm not always able to be around a television or a radio, so this is a great means for me to stay informed. Also, I like to text or call my friends to let them know if bad weather is heading in their direction. It's super quick and easy to shoot a text and say, "Hey turn on the weather channel," or "Hey you might want to head to the basement. There is a tornado heading in your direction".

When you are watching the weather channel, listening to the weather on the radio, reading weather alerts on your phone or text messages from a friend or family members informing you about the weather, it is very important to know the difference between a "WATCH" and a "WARNING". I like to remember a WATCH by "Watch out for possible tornadoes in the sky" and a WARNING by "Warning, a tornado has been spotted". The National Weather Service's definition of WATCH is stated as letting you know that weather conditions are favorable for a hazard to occur and a WARNING is stated as requiring immediate action; a weather hazard is imminent, occurring, or about to occur at any moment. These two terms are very similar so it can sometimes be difficult to remember which is which. It is important to think of a way that will help you remember the difference.  If a person does not know the correct definitions of the terminology, the person will not be properly informed. I like to be familiar with the various types of weather alerts. Just like tornadoes; floods, thunder storms, winter storms, etc. have specific weather watches, warnings and advisories as well. To be better informed, visit the NOAA  website to look over specific terms for different storms.

In case a disaster does happen and I am not around my cell phone, or maybe it dies and I have no way to charge it, I like to keep a Red Cross emergency contact card in my wallet. This way I can be sure that I have all the necessary phone numbers of people to contact in case an emergency does happen. Some important numbers to keep on this card are close family members and friends that you would want to contact as well as local fire and police departments, ambulance, poison control and your health care provider. Personally, I depend on my cell phone to dial my friends’ and family's phone numbers. There are only a handful of numbers that I actually have memorized. I don't have to because they are in my cell phone, right? Well, what if your phone gets destroyed, dies, etc.? Speaking from experience, it is very helpful to have this emergency contact card in your wallet! You may need those numbers at anytime, not just when disasters happen. It can come in handy in many instances.

All of these helpful tips that I have mentioned above are very important, but there is more you can do to help in an emergency! When a major disaster occurs, your community can change in an instant. Loved ones may be hurt and emergency response is likely to be delayed. Make sure that at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR and knows how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). This training is useful in many emergency situations. By taking just ONE day out of your busy schedule to get First Aid/CPR/AED certified, you can save lives!

I hope this has been helpful to help you understand how important it is to be informed! For additional information on "Being Informed" or getting trained please visit the American Red Cross website.

The American Red Cross is part of the “All Ready” campaign, a unified effort among emergency preparedness experts in the bi-state region that focuses on the importance of individual preparedness. The campaign encourages the three critical steps of preparedness: Make a plan, Get a kit, Be informed.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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