Preparing to Prepare: Celebrating National Preparedness Month

This September marks the third annual campaign to raise disaster readiness and response education

Mon 28 August 2023 4 minutes

We've talked in the past about preparedness: the information and then application of that information to understand what areas and demographics need the most help in the event of a disaster. If a wildfire breaks out, who is the most affected and what do they need in order to evacuate or survive? If a tropical storm or hurricane is on the way what's the best way to ensure that people in the storm's path can be safe?

This September marks National Preparedness Month as celebrated by Ready, a FEMA conducted campaign promoting disaster preparedness and education. 2023 marks only the third year of this event and has been bestowed its own particular theme: "Take Control in 1, 2, 3", a statement referencing the core goal of supporting disaster readiness in older Americans. Older Americans are not unique in some of these key areas, but they are a section of the population that may be vulnerable to lack of resources, low mobility, issues in communication or language, and disabilities. In accordance with this campaign, Ready has produced two detailed guides for both older Americans as well as Americans with disabilities.

A lot of this info is meaningful for the modern age of devastating heat waves, forest fires, and hurricanes (It's no surprise that they designated September for this campaign as that's usually when the Atlantic hurricane season is around its peak). As of this writing, Hurricane Idalia is on its path toward Florida and the Census is on top of it with its Emergency Management site. This then brings us back to a tool we featured on Censtats previously: My Community Explorer.

A preview of the My Community Explorer mapping tool

Looking at the image above, you can see how significant this season is for disasters across the country. You can then figure out using census data what states are in the greatest danger and how age demographics might impact who can safely navigate necessary disaster responses.

Now, if we're to keep with the theme of hurricane season, you might be asking, "Does this sort of thing really need awareness?" The answer is probably. Hurricanes tend to be one of the situations wherein evacuations are announced ahead of time and where the severity of the storm can impact retrospection on whether the precaution was necessary or not. The CDC released a report that stated that of the 3,000 respondents from across the Gulf and Atlantic states, "22%[...] reported evacuating at least one time in response to a hurricane" and that "53%[...] indicated that they evacuated at least one time" when faced with a mandatory or voluntary evacuation notice. There have been stories in the past of people who lived in areas in the path of a storm that refused to leave, either because they valued their home or because they didn't believe that the storm would ultimately be that dangerous. As shown in that same CDC report:

Among those who did not evacuate but did have a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order in response to a hurricane, 65% reported they did not feel the need to evacuate.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When it comes to disaster preparedness, one struggle is to ensure that those who need help in such a stressful situation can get that help quickly. The other issue is adequately communicating the dangers of remaining behind, something that can be widely ignored if a person believes they know better. It's in the same way that some people might ask why a month dedicated to cancer awareness is necessary when we already know about cancer; It's not about if you know that it exists or not, but if you can recognize the signs and severity of it ahead of time and then take action.

On that note, we're hoping everyone stays safe and alert this season!

Header image sourced with permission from djvstock.

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