September is National Preparedness Month. This year's theme is Prepared, not scared. Be ready for disaster.

Community members are encouraged to be prepared, have a plan and save some money - just in case. And to help Families get involved by educating their children.

While the Fort Stewart website has a good deal of preparedness information available on the website at https://home.army.mil/stewart, I want to contribute by sharing some insight from two significant hurricanes I experienced first-hand, as a youth and later as an adult.
In August 1969, when I was four years-old, living with my grandparents, Hurricane Camille made landfall on the shores of my home town in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. My family had evacuated to a nearby location, which allowed us to return quickly. While we learned our house survived, it was damaged. Tree limbs had fallen on the roof and flood waters covered the floors. During our assessment, my grandmother discovered a snake in the living room. While grandfather dealt with it, the children were ushered outside - into a world of adventure.

If we had a long-haired dog named Lassie, it would have started barking a warning to adults - the children were up to mischief. (For the younger generation, you may have to Google Lassie.)

The devastation was incredible and the area seemed surreal. Many of the roads and structures had been swept away. The waters from the Gulf of Mexico had laid waste to the coastal houses and left a plethora of debris. Large rocks were waiting to be thrown back into the ocean. Suffice to say, I managed to land a rather large one on my brothers head - requiring a hasty retreat, about 20 stitches and years to apologize. Our adventure had strained the overtaxed hospital and my grandparent's nerves.

Many years and hurricanes later, I understand the danger doesn't end with the storm. The lack of power, disease, debris and limited resources all pose great challenges.

Over the years, I've tried to pass my lesson on to others. I often warn people to take hurricanes seriously, evacuate where you can and avoid returning too soon.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, while helping maintain a shelter for the City of Gulfport, Mississippi, nearly 300 people checked in, and learned that lesson too.

Many showed up without food, clothing, medicines, money or their important papers. The shelter only had about nine cases of water and meals ready-to-eat. Most of the people expected to weather the storm and leave the next day. But many roads were destroyed and the area wasn't safe. They had to stay until access to the area was opened up. Even after people were allowed to leave, resources were limited.
After a few days, help started arriving with support from the American Red Cross, the National Guard, FEMA, volunteers from churches and private organizations, emergency responders from neighboring states, and Soldier from the 3rd Infantry Division.

You can help your Family by learning more about severe weather - Be Prepared, not scared. Be prepared for disaster.

A good source for severe weather preparedness is the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield website, https://home.army.mil/stewart. Search for either the hurricane center or the Severe Weather Handbook.
And remember, it's better to evacuate and return when it is safe, rather than exposing your Family to an unnecessary adventure.