Posted by: Andrew Velasquez III, FEMA Region V Administrator
National Preparedness Month is a good time to consider the unique challenges we face in our communities when disaster strikes. FEMA Region V located in downtown Chicago, IL. -- the third largest city in the U.S. in a vibrant metropolitan area. Every day millions of people commute to work, attend school, and enjoy our beautiful parks and attractions - right in our downtown area. Chicago is not unlike many urban areas around the county, but how many of us consider the unique challenges and threats that can arise when we live and work in the heart of all the action?
Living and working in an urban area, it’s easy to take for granted that everything you need is at your fingertips. But what would you do if there was an emergency? How would your family cope if the power was out? What would you do if your family was separated and you couldn’t reach them?
No matter if you live in a small or large city, the infrastructure you depend upon for everyday activities could be disrupted. Transportation routes could be closed or changed due to severe weather or any number of emergencies. Power and public utility outages could last for days. This could mean that you and your family could be separated for a period of time. It is also possible that communication infrastructure could be disrupted, so calling or e-mailing each other may not be an option.
So what can you do to keep your family safe?
First, identify a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for family members to notify that you are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
Second, teach family members how to use text messaging. Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Third, subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management website.
Finally, download the simple Family Emergency Plan (FEP) (PDF - 508 Kb) and fill out the sections before printing it or emailing it to your family and friends.
Check out www.Ready.gov for more information about preparing your family for emergencies, no matter where you live or work.