"If you believe you can accomplish everything by 'cramming' at the eleventh hour, by all means, don't lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining." -- Max Brooks, "The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead"

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (Sept. 21, 2012) -- While a zombie apocalypse may not be an imminent threat (… yet), there are other very real disasters worth planning for in advance.

This month marks the ninth annual National Preparedness Month, or NPM, a commemorative event that emphasizes the importance of being prepared.

During this time, the Army focuses its efforts on educating, empowering and involving community members in preparedness activities that enhance the resiliency of the Army and increase our nation's readiness for all forms of hazardous events.

"It's not only for natural disasters; it's for everyday living," said Joe Barker, installation management emergency officer, Emergency Operations Center, located, here.

"The importance (of NPM) is to notify people living here that they need to be prepared," Barker explained. "People need to know that help's going to come, but your help also lives here on the island, too, and will be making sure their own families are safe.

"So, for at least 72 hours, you need to be able to take care of yourself before our local help can get to you, and then at least seven to 14 days before outside assistance starts arriving," Barker said.

Proactive awareness campaigns, such as Ready Army, encourage Soldiers, families and civilians to turn awareness into action by being informed, making a plan, building a kit and getting involved.

"It's always a good idea to be aware, have a kit in the advent that an emergency comes up and have a plan the whole family understands," Barker added.

He suggested families practice their emergency plan at least twice a year and discuss ways to improve/change their plan to fit different scenarios.

"Here in Hawaii, we have volcanic activity," Barker said. "An active volcano can create an earthquake, which can then create a tsunami. Even a 10-foot tsunami can cause enough damage to take out places like Waikiki."

This September is particularly significant to the Hawaii Army community in light of the recent 20th anniversary observation of Hurricane Iniki.

On Sept. 11, 1992, the most powerful hurricane in recorded Hawaiian history made landfall on Kauai, with 145 mph winds and 35-foot waves wrecking havoc on the island. Nearly 1,500 homes were destroyed, and another 5,000 were heavily damaged. Also, thousands of tons worth of debris was deposited 800-feet inland.

Though not directly in the path of Iniki's eye, Oahu still experienced moderate damage from wind and storm surges. The Category 4 hurricane caused $2 billion in damages, and six people were killed during the disaster.

In addition, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association reported 2011 was the costliest and deadliest hurricane season in the U.S. in recent years. It also was the fourth deadliest and second worst active season for tornadoes.

This data, underscored by last month's Hurricane Isaac, which caused millions of dollars in damages and losses in Louisiana, Mississippi and several other U.S. states, stresses the importance of proactive planning and due diligence.

"When Hawaii has a catastrophe, everything shuts down, and then you have to rebuild," Barker said. "So, if you have time and knowledge, you're going to have a kit, you're going to have a plan, and you're going to have to watch the news and stay informed."

Emergency kits are essential tools for ensuring your family's well-being during times of crisis. Suggested items to include in your home emergency kit follow:

--Water, at least one gallon per person per day and enough to last each person for at least seven days.
--Nonperishable food items that will last at least seven days, do not require cooking and will maintain freshness for several months, such as energy bars and freeze dried/dehydrated foods.
--Formula and diapers for infants.
--Food, water, other supplies and documents for pets.
--Manual can opener.
--Flashlight, battery-powered weather radio, battery-powered cell phone charger and extra batteries or hand-crank-powered devices.
--First aid kit and prescription medications.
--Sanitation supplies, such as moist towelettes, disinfectant and garbage bags.
--Important documents -- personal, financial and insurance -- protected in watertight packaging. (Store copies in a safe, separate location, such as a safety deposit box or with relatives or a trusted friend.)
--Five-gallon buckets with plastic bags, for use as a portable toilet.
--Cash, in small denominations.
Additional items that can be of use include these:
--Fire extinguisher.
--Matches, in a waterproof container.
--Any tools needed to turn off utilities.
--Metal or plastic bowls.
--Coats and rain gear.
--Sleeping bags or other bedding.
--A weather-appropriate change of clothes for each person.
--Books, games, puzzles, toys and other activities for children.

Page last updated Fri September 21st, 2012 at 00:00