2023 National Preparedness Month

By Emily Myers and Essie Washington-BennettSeptember 1, 2023

2023 National Preparedness Month
Aberdeen Proving Ground Emergency Manager, Essie Washington-Bennett, stands at her Ready Army Display at the Emergency Operations Center, kicking off National Preparedness Month 2023. (Photo Credit: Hannah Miller) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Ready Campaign’s 2023 National Preparedness Month (NPM) campaign focuses on preparing older adults from communities disproportionally impacted by all-hazard events which continue to span our nation.

Older adults face greater risks when it comes to the multitude of extreme weather events and emergencies, especially if they live alone, are low-income, have a disability, or live in rural areas. Emergency managers and all who work with, and support older adult communities have access to the new Ready Campaign webpage available in English and Spanish languages at Ready.gov/older-adults and Ready.gov/es/adultos-mayores for initial messaging, graphics and resources.

A disaster, mishap, or emergency causes widespread damage to humans, materials, economic activities, and/or environmental factors. The event can be short or long term and categorized as minor, major, and catastrophic. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and even terrorist attacks are all classified as disasters. Whatever the cause, the effect of a disaster devastates communities, changing lives forever.

APG is focusing on four weekly topics throughout NPM for the workforce and their families to update important documents and processes.

Preparing for Older Adults

NPM 2023 aims to reduce the fallout of large-scale emergencies by preparing citizens of all ages.

Week 1: Think Ahead.  Focus on the coordination needed for your disaster preparedness plan. Plan for communication if there is a specific need like hearing impairment or transportation during an evacuation. Anticipate accessibility hardships such as evacuation with mobile assistance devices like walkers or canes, and essentials like food and water for service animals. Make a list of medicines and medical supplies. Gather chargers and batteries, additional copies of Medicaid, Medicare, and other personal documentation. Ensure your plan is thorough, concise, and serves the needs of the intended individual.

Washington-Bennett said, "People forget about older adults and their needs. There might not be someone to help you so planning for large assistance items such as an oxygen tank are crucial."

Week 2: Make or Update Your Current Plan. Create a support network of family, friends and others who can assist you during an emergency. Make an emergency plan and practice it with them. Make sure at least one person in your support network has an extra key to your home, knows where you keep your emergency supplies, and knows how to use lifesaving equipment or administer medicine. If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital, find out their emergency plans and work with them to identify back-up service providers.

Week 3:  Build an Emergency Kit.  During recovery, you may not be able to access supplies. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supply kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. Consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets or seniors. Since you can't predict where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and transportation.

"Don't forget to plan for pets," said Washington-Bennett. "Make sure you locate shelters that accept pets. You will need their vaccination documents and other papers"

Week 4: Conduct drills.  Rehearse individual and workplace Emergency Action Plans (EAPS) to reinforce where to go, what to do, and what to take in the event of an emergency. Run mock safety drills, test your safety plan, build a disaster kit with all the essentials, including needs of seniors. Everyone in the home, work, or business should know what actions to take when disaster hits. Doing consistent mock drills provides a better chance at minimal losses.

A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks. If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is a simple, important way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes. Switching also eliminates the risk of stolen checks. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:

Direct deposit to a checking or savings account. If you receive federal benefits, you can sign up online or by calling 800-333-1795.

Americans are getting better at preparedness. The 2016 National Household Survey showed, "75% of Americans have disaster supplies in their homes. Many don't have a safety plan. The National Household Survey of 2016 survey revealed that less than 50% of Americans created a household emergency plan.'"

Natural disasters are on the rise year round. Injury facts show there were 67,504 weather-related emergencies such as flash floods, tropical storms, and heatwaves in 2019. This has more Americans are purchasing insurance against disasters.

The FEMA Annual Preparedness Survey 2020 says, "77% of adults surveyed have homeowners or renters’ insurance policies, but only 22% have flood insurance."

Mrs. Washington-Bennett explains her passion for NPM.

"Everybody is trained to have a game plan so the community is safer, and learns how to protect themselves. [Preparedness] is the smartest step you can take to help your community. The more people that are prepared, the faster your community can recover from the effects of the disaster. Fear and panic increase the losses brought on by the disaster. Simple Preparedness activities like floodproofing the house and securing items that can shake loose in the event of earthquakes can reduce the damage."

Washington-Bennett's final note for people living and working on the installation is, "Ensure [you] conduct planning and preparation for "NO WARNING" drills/events such as tornados warnings and active shooters."

Support Community Preparedness

Get involved before disaster strikes. You can volunteer at the Red Cross, your Neighborhood Watch, and fire stations.

Learn more at, https://www.ready.gov/.