By Gwen Camp, director of individual and community preparedness for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Despite the heartbreaking stories of recent disasters, research shows nearly 60 percent of Americans have not participated in a preparedness drill or exercise at their workplace, school, or home in the past year. Local leaders in public health preparedness have a unique ability and responsibility to make sure their communities are as prepared as possible to withstand and recover from a disaster.
What can local health officials do? They can ensure the safety and resilience of their communities by joining the millions of people across the country participating in National PrepareAthon! Day on April 30.
Launched in 2013, America’s PrepareAthon! is a grassroots campaign focused on encouraging families, businesses, schools, and houses of worship to prepare for emergencies through hazard-specific group discussions, drills, and exercises.
The goals are to increase the number of people who:
- Understand which disasters could happen in their community;
- Know what to do to be safe and mitigate damage;
- Take action to improve their preparedness; and
- Participate in community resilience planning.
Twice a year America’s PrepareAthon! promotes national days of action to highlight the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies. The National PrepareAthon! Days occur every April 30 and September 30.
America’s PrepareAthon! offers materials to facilitate family, organizational, and community preparedness for six natural hazards: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, and winter storm. America’s PrepareAthon! also offers a variety of customizable promotional materials for these hazards to tailor outreach materials for specific community needs.
Visit the America’s PrepareAthon! website to:
- Take Action: Know your hazards and choose your activities
- Be Counted: Create your account and register your activities
- Spread the Word: Download materials to promote your day of action.
Cities and counties across the country are already planning community-wide events for America’s PrepareAthon! that bring together hospitals, schools, businesses, city government, faith leaders, individuals and families, and others to participate in preparedness drills and activities for hazards that are relevant to their area. The city of Smyrna, GA, is a great example of the whole community approach to preparedness. Officials integrated America’s PrepareAthon! into their existing Ready Smyrna campaign. Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon! provided an opportunity to drive the entire community to action so that everyone would be prepared in the event of disaster.
Over the last year Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon! conducted two community-wide tornado drills and preparedness expositions with workshops and training sessions that involved the health department, area schools, businesses, a hospital, day cares, and assisted living facilities. Officials are currently preparing for their next preparedness event. When Smyrna’s preparedness was put to the test during a recent ice storm, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon found they “were better prepared than any other community” as a result of having participated in Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon!
The bottom line is that building a resilient nation requires the involvement of the whole community. Investing a few minutes now can make all the difference in the face of an emergency. When disaster strikes, communities will look to public health professionals for leadership. The time is now to prepare for the hazard that might impact your area.
Build your own America’s PrepareAthon! activity with resources available at ready.gov/prepare.