The theme for 2021 is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for Disasters is Protecting Everyone You Love.” Aaron Levy, director of individual and community preparedness at FEMA, said the Dayton-area’s 2019 tornadoes provide a perfect example of why people should plan in advance for unexpected disasters.
“What we like to say is, [in] events like that, that the more you can do ahead of time to make a plan and build a kit and take various low-cost or no-cost preparedness actions and also teach your children about preparedness, [it] will allow you to prepare for events that are no-notice, or events in other areas of the country that tend to have more notice, such as severe winter storms or even severe hurricanes.”
Levy said each of those steps lay the framework for families to prepare for unexpected emergencies.
“First things first, make a plan,” he said, “specifically about how you will communicate with your family and friends. This is key, especially if, even during a time of COVID, a family unit is in different parts around an area during a given day. Knowing how you’ll communicate with one another and where you’ll meet up after the event passes, that’s key information.”
He said families should also involve their kids in developing a preparedness kit that includes things like medicine, masks, hand sanitizer and prized possessions they would want to preserve if they had to exit their home immediately.
The third step, he said, involves having access to financial information in the aftermath of a disaster.
“If I said, ‘Right now, if you had to get out of your house in 60 seconds, do you know where your insurance information is? Do you know where your credit card information is? Do you know where your bank account information is? Do you know where your car insurance information is?’ All of those important documents which are so key to helping a family or a nonprofit institution or even individual Americans recover faster from a disaster — what we’ve learned is if you can organize those key documents ahead of time into that kit, you’ll make your road to recovery so much easier.”
Beyond personal preparedness, Levy said that a community with strong staple organizations or “community weavers” such as churches, libraries, foodbanks, homeless shelters and others, have a better chance of fully recovering from disasters more quickly.
But during Preparedness Month, he said the one seed he wants to plant in the minds of community members is the importance of flood insurance.
“If it rains where you live, it can flood,” said Levy. The one disaster that individual households deal with the most on a day in and day out basis in the United States is flooding.”
He added, “Something that a lot of folks don’t know is our programs –they’re not designed to make you whole again. FEMA can reach down and give a family a helping hand, but the most money — if the president were to declare a disaster, let’s say in the aftermath of an event — the most money that FEMA can give out is just a tad over $30,000. And if you’ve lost everything, and I mean everything, that’s not a lot.”
To explore a list of organizations that assist with disaster preparedness and relief, click the links below.
- Montgomery County Emergency Management
- Miami Valley Community Action Partnership
- Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team
- American Red Cross