Hurricane season is currently at its peak on the east coast of the United States. There was a time when Vermonters didn't think much about that – but times have changed.
We've seen firsthand what a tropical storm, one classification below a hurricane, can do to even an inland state like ours. We've learned that nearly anything can happen here, so as a state and as Vermonters we need to be ready for storms like Irene, and other possible weather hazards.
September is Preparedness Month, a national campaign designed to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for a storm or other natural or manmade disaster well beforehand.
The Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security constantly develops and updates plans for all-hazards year round. Fortunately, individuals can prepare themselves and their families with website visits, a few phone calls, and a couple of trips to the grocery store.
Information is your greatest tool in any disaster or weather event. Our Vermont Alert system allows you to receive weather, transportation, or other incident updates via text, e-mail, or phone. The system allows you to select the areas for which you want to receive alerts, and how you receive them. The account is free and it only takes a few minutes to sign up. Visit www.vtalert.gov for more information or to register.
During hazardous weather events often the last thing you want to do, or in particularly bad weather can't do, is visit the grocery store for essentials. Many people do go to the grocery store for food and water a day or two ahead of a storm, which is a good thing to do if you see a need – but why wait?
The next time you go shopping buy an extra gallon of water and maybe some canned goods or batteries you don't need right away. Store them away and you have the beginnings of an emergency preparedness kit. Add to your collection slowly over time and you will be ready to wait out the next storm – and avoid the rush at the store the day before the storm.
Over time you could also add a couple of flashlights, a battery powered radio (yes, they still make them in the age of smartphones), a battery powered smartphone charger, batteries, medications, and other items your family will need if you are homebound for a couple of days.
They say knowledge is power, and a little information can make you and your family feel more secure and confident before and during a disaster. Call your town to find out where the nearest shelter is located, contact an out of state relative and ask that person to be a central contact should your family become separated during a disaster, and write all the information down where everyone in your home can find it. Have your kids help if you think it will make them feel safer before and during an emergency event.
Preparing is what we do at VT DEMHS, it allows us to better respond to whatever challenges may present themselves to Vermont. Preparing yourself and your family will help you do the same in your home, and give you and those around you some peace of mind should disaster strike.
Other preparedness resources include:
— Christopher Herrick is the director of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security