FORT BENNING, Ga. (Sept. 17, 2018) -- The sirens blare as a disaster strikes; in the ensuing minutes, the time it takes for someone to decide what to do next may mean the difference between loss and catastrophic loss.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sponsors September as National Preparedness Month, and one of the focuses of the month is planning ahead.

"An emergency situation is a time to react and not to figure things out," said Tina Sandell, operations specialist with Fort Benning Emergency Management. "Taking steps to prepare beforehand saves needed time that you don't have when a crisis strikes."

Sandell's first recommendation is to stay apprised of emergency situations. The best way to do so at Fort Benning is through AtHoc, an emergency notification system the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning use to reach out to individual users through phone, text, email or government computer desktop alerts.

Soldiers, civilians, and their families at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning can register on the AtHoc system to receive alerts specific to Fort Benning. Those with access to a government computer can sign up by clicking the purple AtHoc icon on their taskbar. Those without access that have yet to register may do so by visiting https://warnings.army.mil/SelfService/2538145 or the "Related Links" section on this page.

Once registered with AtHoc, the next step is to think through some basic questions:
• What emergencies are possible for the location (tornado, flood, fire, or something else)?
• Is the plan intended for an individual or a family?
• Does the individual or any family member require special items (medication, diapers or formula)?

Then, the next thing to think through is what some emergency items are likely to be needed. This could include the following: first aid kit, flashlight, spare batteries, all-weather emergency radio, non-perishable food, and bottled water. Scroll toward the bottom of this article for a fuller list.

The list should include both general necessities and all those needs that are particular for those involved in the plan such as lifesaving medication and diapers and baby food for infants, and all those needs that are particular type of emergency such as portable phone chargers for power outages and more. These items should then be available for quick, easy access.

Planning is only part of preparedness. Rehearsal is another major component.

"The most important thing after making a plan is to practice and rehearse the plan with your family to make sure everyone knows where to go for shelter in their home and what their role in the plan is," said Sandell. "We have plans in the Army; exercising and rehearsing them is critical to ensure everything is in place when a real event occurs."

Running a practice drill periodically will help ensure resolution of many difficulties and help eliminate mishaps before they occur or before they compound during an actual event.
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For more on emergency preparedness or September as National Preparedness Month, visit FEMA's Ready campaign's site at www.ready.gov or the "Related Links" section on this page.
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Here is the generalized emergency kit list from the Ready Army campaign. (Also see the "Related Links" section on this page):
• Water -- at least one gallon per person per day for at least three days
• Food -- nonperishable food for at least three days (select items that require no preparation, refrigeration or cooking such as high energy foods and ready-to-eat canned meat, vegetables, fruit)
• Manual can opener (if the food is canned), preferably on a multi-tool
• Reusable plates, cups, utensils, saucepan (note, a metal bowl can double as a cup or plate)
• First aid kit
• Prescription medications and medical equipment/care aids
• N95- or N100-rated dust masks
• Personal sanitation supplies, such as moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties
• Hand-crank or battery operated flashlight
• Hand-crank radio or battery operated cell phone charger
• All-hazards NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio
• Extra batteries at the size required
• Brightly colored plastic poncho (can be used as shelter, clothing or a marker)
• Weather appropriate clothing to keep your family warm and dry
• Cash in the local currency
• Any tools needed for turning off utilities
• Local maps and your family emergency plan
• Your command reporting information -- know the Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System (ADPAAS)
• Important documents, including will, medical and financial power of attorney, property documents, medical instructions
• Emergency preparedness handbook

Additional considerations
• Infant formula and diapers if you have young children
• Pets supplies, including food, water, medication, leash, travel case and documents
• Disinfectant
• Matches or flint in a waterproof container
• Sleeping bag or other weather-appropriate bedding for each person
• Coats, jackets and rain gear
• Fire extinguisher
• Paper and pencil
• Books, games, puzzles, toys and other activities for children
• Any items necessary for a specific type of disaster