By Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerAugust 23, 2010
FORT POLK, La. -- Emergencies affect hundreds of people every year. South Central Louisiana is especially prone to hurricanes and floods. When emergencies occur, military and civilian organizations respond, but it takes time to mobilize, and they focus on the most critical needs first. Failure to be prepared can put Soldiers, their Families and property in jeopardy.
The Ready Army Initiative informs the Army community of all hazards and provides targeted preparedness information to Soldiers, their Families, civilians and contractors worldwide.
While potential threats can seem overwhelming, most of what is addressed in a Family emergency plan or put in emergency kits will be useful regardless of the hazard. In many cases, the same protective alternatives apply - evacuate or shelter-in-place.
No matter where you are when an emergency strikes, Soldiers and Family members should leave emergency response to professionals.
Aca,!Ac Do not put yourself in danger.
Aca,!Ac Enable responders to focus on the most critical needs first.
Aca,!Ac Remain flexible and cooperative. Stay alert for instructions.
Aca,!Ac Take care of yourself and your Family; help neighbors and visitors if you can.
One way to be part of the solution is to make an emergency plan. A simple formula for creating a plan is to think of the five Ws:
Aca,!Ac Who: Gather input from members of your Family to consider all possibilities and make them more likely to remember important steps when an emergency happens. Choose a contact person, a Family member or friend living somewhere else whom you can all contact in an emergency.
Aca,!Ac What: Plan for all hazards that could affect your Family, considering potential hazards and weather patterns in your region. Think through each possible emergency situation and determine how your Family should respond.
Aca,!Ac Where: Think about all the places you and your Family may be throughout the day, such as home, office, school and in transit. Establish meeting places and discuss situations to use them.
Aca,!Ac When: Because emergencies can happen at any time, make your Family emergency plan immediately. Review the plan annually and whenever there are major changes in your Family situation, schedule or activities.
Aca,!Ac Why: Emergencies can be scary. By establishing and practicing a Family emergency plan, you and your Family are more likely to find each other quickly and help one another get through the emergency situation safely and with less worry.
Once a plan is developed, it should be practiced at least twice a year. Create a hypothetical event and follow the Family emergency plan. Practice gathering your emergency kit and important documents, communicating with one another and meeting at a designated place. Afterwards, discuss the actions you took and how the plan would change in a different type of emergency.
To help build an emergency preparedness kit to supplement the emergency plan, the American Red Cross' Services to Armed Forces will host a Ready Fort Polk Emergency Preparedness Kit event Aug. 28 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Army Community Service bldg 920, BellRichard Avenue. The event also serves as a kick-off to the American Red Cross Emergency Preparedness Month, which begins Sept. 1.
Roxanne Stevens, ARC station manager at Fort Polk, said her organization wanted to reach out to military Families. "We decided to host this event for our military Families," she said. "Fort Polk is one of six places worldwide to participate in the program this year."
Other locations are Germany, Korea, Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Belvoir, Va.
Stevens said the goal is to provide 1,500 Families at each location with basic emergency kits to sustain themselves for 72 hours after a disaster. The items that will be made available for military Families at the event include:
Aca,!Ac ARC multipurpose lantern
Aca,!Ac Two LED flow sticks
Aca,!Ac Two emergency preparedness drawstring bags
Aca,!Ac Self-powered AM/FM National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio
Aca,!Ac Personal safety pack
Aca,!Ac Mini water storage system
Stevens said there would be personnel available to demonstrate how the issued equipment is used, as well as other Fort Polk agencies and units to discuss what other items might be needed in the kits. She said representatives and equipment from each ARC chapter in Louisiana would also be there.
"Fort Polk's is the first real event the ARC has hosted," Stevens said. "Hopefully, we'll set the standard. Our senior vice president for Services to Armed Forces will also visit. It's her first visit to Fort Polk and we're looking forward to showing her what we have and how we do business."
The event is open to anyone with a military ID: Active duty, Reserve, National Guard or retirees.