By Kaitlin Fleming
September marks FEMA’s National Preparedness Month and the Gadsden/Etowah County Emergency Management Agency is focusing its efforts on making sure this area is prepared for anything.
The month of September will be packed with different programs to make sure that people are prepared. The program will be broken into four weeks. Week One will be “Make and Practice Your Plan.”
“Making a plan is what we are constantly drilling into people’s heads,” said Breonna Cole, Public Information Officer for the Gadsden/Etowah County EMA. “Make a plan. If your plan is just to go to your safe place then you don’t have a plan.”
FEMA’s suggested steps to creating a plan are: knowing how emergency alerts will be received, learning where shelters are, learning evacuation routes, developing a family communication plan, considering specific needs, writing out emergency plans and then practicing those plans.
“It is important to practice emergency plans,” said Cole. “Things you think you will remember, in a moment of crisis you can forget everything. I’ve heard stories of people who in an emergency, needed to call 911, and they couldn’t remember the number for 911. Anything can happen when you are panicking.”
Week Two will be focused on learning life-saving skills. This week is when the local EMA will push CERT, which stands for Community Emergency Response Team. Currently, there are around 300 CERT members in Etowah County, who are trained in disaster medical response, fire safety, search and rescue, team organization, emergency preparedness, disaster psychology and terrorist awareness. All CERT training is free and consists of six mandatory classes.
“CERT is just the first thing that comes to mind when learning lifesaving skills,” said Cole. “It’s just about learning steps to take to make sure you are safe and your community is safe.”
David Elliott, the volunteer manager and logistics manager for the local EMA, said that there is something that everyone can do and that the classes are very hands on.
“We have Gadsden and Rainbow City fire departments come in and teach fire safety, we have paramedics teach disaster medical training,” said Elliott. “The final class is a hands on exercise that covers everything we have taught throughout the courses. We turn the EMA offices into a disaster zone.”
Week Three will be all about making sure you have the right insurance coverage. The EMA suggests looking over all insurance policies, such as homeowners, car, medical and life insurance, and making sure that all items are well insured. Make sure that businesses are insured fully as well.
“At least 25 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster,” said Cole. “We saw that on March 19 of this year. Businesses were under-insured and so were many homes.”
Cole suggests snapping photos of all items in your home and keeping digital copies of those photos.
“Having photos makes the whole claims process a lot easier and faster.”
Week Four will be dedicated to financially planning for emergencies. It is critical to have records of everything financially, personally and medically. The EMA suggests having cash in all emergency kits.
“Most people don’t carry cash around anymore, we all use our cards,” said Cole. “If a disaster happens and there is no power or internet, you can’t use your bank cards. You will need cash.”
Apart from needing cash, the EMS also suggests setting up a savings account dedicated solely to emergency needs.
The Gadsden/Etowah County EMA will be uploading more tips on its website, GECEMA.com and on its social media sites.
For more information on the National Preparedness Month or CERT classes, visit GECEMA.com or contact the EMA at 256-549-4575.
Fall 2018 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training classes will be held on Sept. 18, 20, 25 and 27 and Oct. 2 and 4 from 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
The free training highlights the importance of neighbors helping neighbors in the aftermath of a disaster. It covers basic skills that are important to know when emergency services are not immediately available. The Etowah County CERT program consists of lecture-based learning with hands-on training in basic disaster response skills such as Fire Safety, Search and Rescue, Disaster Medical Operations, and Team Organization.
Call the Gadsden/Etowah County EMA at 256-549-4575 to sign up. You must attend all six classes to receive training accreditation.
Remember, first responders can’t be everywhere after a disaster hits. That’s where the public comes in.
For more information, contact the Gadsden/Etowah EMA at 256-549-4575.
-CERT Press Release courtesy of the GECEMA