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National Preparedness Month: This September Prepare for an Emergency to Protect Your Loved Ones

Learn about tools and resources to plan and prepare to keep your family and community safe before, during and after an emergency.

September is National Preparedness Month and the perfect time to make sure you’re prepared for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. Created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month is a time to plan, prepare and take action to ensure you and your loved ones are thinking about ways to stay safe in advance of a disaster occurring. In this blog, learn about tools and resources available to jump start disaster preparedness now. Three important steps to take now are: 1) sign up for local alerts, 2) build an emergency kit, and 3) make a communications plan. Read on to gain some tips and resources to quickly get prepared this month.

Disaster Planning Now to Protect Your Family & Property

Natural and large-scale man-made disasters affect hundreds of thousands of lives every year around the world, and each disaster will have lasting effects on people mentally, physically, and financially. FEMA has urged the public to understand that emergency management is not only their responsibility, but an important focus for the whole community. While government and disaster relief organizations are ready to help those impacted by these events, they tend to be spread thinly during major issues, so it’s vital that everyone adopt a policy of “the first line of safety begins at home.” Palo Alto has over 65,000 residents, but only 40–50 first responders on duty at any given time, so preparing to be self-sufficient for at least 14 days will help you make it through a large disaster, greatly increasing your family and property resiliency and reducing economic loss.

This year’s theme, Protect Your Legacy, calls out the additional importance of making sure your kids, grandchildren and other youth in your life are prepared. This means taking time to plan and have conversations with them about preparedness and the City is offering a series of tools and tips to plan and prepare through the month of September.

STAY INFORMED AND CONNECTED

One of the most important ways to maintain safety and avoid the stress of isolation is to stay informed and connected. The City and County of Santa Clara post important updates during widespread emergencies in various mediums you can subscribe to, including:

MONITOR AND PREPARE FOR WEATHER INCIDENTS

Monitoring weather is an important factor in disaster and emergency preparedness, whether it be getting ready for the impacts of an impending storm or monitoring the air quality from surrounding wildfires. Great resources for monitoring or preparing for weather include:

PREPARE YOUR HOME

Disaster preparedness begins in the home. Keep your family, your fur family, and your property safe by making an emergency plan, building an emergency kit, and having open conversations with your loved ones about potential emergency measures. Learn about some tips below as a starting point!

Making a Plan

It’s important to plan and do practice drills every six months so that when an emergency happens, everyone knows where to go and what to do.

Key elements of a disaster plan:

  • Identify an out-of-town contact and place to reunite if you and your family members are separated.
  • Know your school and day care center emergency release policies and identify someone to pick up your children if you are unable to do so.
  • Consider the needs of the more vulnerable members of your family, or people with limited mobility, such as infants, seniors, pets, farm animals and persons with disabilities.
  • Create an emergency evacuation plan including a home floor plan, home evacuation routes, and at least two exits out of each room.
  • Develop a family contact list to use if separated.
  • Identify important documents to take with you such as insurance policies, medical records, driver’s license, and mortgage information.
  • Teach the family how to shut off valves for gas, water, and electricity and how to secure water heaters, major appliances, heavy furniture and picture frames to wall studs.
  • Store breakables, heavy objects, and flammable or hazardous liquids in secured cabinets or low shelves.

Free Resources for Creating a Plan

Building an Emergency Kit

During a large disaster, many local stores, utilities, and amenities won’t be functioning normally or available. Palo Alto Neighborhoods has assembled a list of emergency preparation supplies to sustain you and your family when needed. Remember to build a kit for your car that includes similar supplies, especially if you commute to work.

These supplies include clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, food and water, important papers, special needs for young children, elderly, disabled and pets, first aid, tools, and communication equipment. You can also find a list for supplies to prepare for when you’re away from home, suggestions on where to store supplies safely and watch a video on kit building.

For comprehensive wildfire-related preparation, such as mitigating your property risk and evacuation recommendations, read the City’s recent blog post here.

Helping Kids Cope During and After an Emergency

Sometimes we’re so focused on survival when dealing with a disaster or emergency that we forget about the long-term emotional trauma that can occur.

Ready.gov offers great tips on letting kids and teens take an active role in emergency planning and response, which can help them cope better with the long-term effects. You can find free resources for helping children cope with the uncertainty around emergencies. You can also learn about child risk factors around emergencies, and free coping tips for kids such as: encouraging dialogue and answering questions, limiting media exposure, sticking to a routine, making quality time, and finding support resources.

Learn more at https://www.ready.gov/kids/prepare-your-family.

PREPARE AS A COMMUNITY

If your family is prepared, and you’d like to take your knowledge and contribution to the next level, consider becoming a City of Palo Alto Emergency Services Volunteer (ESV), dynamic neighborhoods-based volunteer program that is directly connected to the city’s emergency management organization.

There are several types of volunteer programs you may become involved in, with trainings to make sure you have all the knowledge and tools you need to help the City prepare for and respond to disasters and emergencies in our community.

Trainings are starting soon, so join your neighbors and sign up now!

Community Emergency Response Team Trainings

The Palo Alto CERT is part of a national program which teaches residents how to help themselves, their families, and their neighbors in the event of a disaster. The free training for Palo Alto and Stanford University citizens, which starts Sept. 6, covers basic skills that are important to know in a disaster when emergency services are not available. This includes disaster fire suppression techniques, earthquake awareness, disaster medical operations, first aid/CPR, light search-and-rescue, as well as team organization and management. CERT training culminates with a disaster simulation and comprehensive course review.

The course will emphasize hands-on practice in person so that following a disaster, such as a major wildfire, CERT teams can demonstrate an effective response capability. Important dates for the program, which take place at Mitchell Park Community Center, Adobe Room, 3700 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303, include:

  • CERT Basic Training beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, 6:30–9:30 p.m.
  • In person classes Sept. 8, 13, 15, 20, 22 from 6:30–9:30 p.m.
  • Field Day on Sunday, Sept. 25, noon — 4 p.m.

Attendance of all classes is required. Registration is highly recommended for these popular courses. Register here.

Palo Alto Neighborhood and Block Preparedness Coordinator (BPC) Program

The Block Preparedness (BPC) and Neighborhood Preparedness Coordinators (NPC) programs respectively train volunteers to staff various positions for each block and neighborhood. When disaster strikes and phones, electricity, and other infrastructure are impaired, the BPC Program boosts community resilience by:

  • Preparing the community prior to disaster, including building social bonds.
  • Establishing emergency radio communications links and serving as a communication liaison between City emergency officials and neighborhood residents and business owners.
  • Empowering residents to assist emergency response by serving as “eyes and ears” for ongoing needs and organizing a Neighborhood Watch.

Learn about becoming a BPC/NPC here, including registering for training.

Auxiliary Communications Services

The City’s Auxiliary Communication Services (ACS) program supplements emergency communications staff with licensed and unlicensed volunteers who can serve in one or more functions across administrative, management, technical, or operational areas in the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) areas.

Volunteers can assist with:

  • Supplementing communications at their local neighborhood command post or in the City’s emergency operations center or ESV operations center.
  • Supporting the operations of our logistic trailers located at our fire stations.
  • Serving as mobile communications resources or at fixed locations depending on the needs of the city.

If you live or work in Palo Alto and are a communications professional, amateur radio operator, or are interested in learning about radio communications, you’re welcome to join the program.

Learn more here or contact esv@cityofpaloalto.org for more details.

Learn about additional ESV trainings on the calendar here.

PREPARE YOUR BUSINESS

Businesses and their staff face a variety of hazards, from floods and earthquakes to pandemics, accidents and power outages. The Ready Business program helps business leaders make a preparedness plan that not only covers protecting humans and property, but also includes communicating with customers.

The Ready Business Toolkit series includes hazard-specific, step-by-step guides to building preparedness within an organization, from identifying risk and developing a plan to taking action and inspiring others. Particularly useful kits for Palo Alto businesses include:

Learn about other business toolkits and how to deliver related workshops here.

ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES

Stay informed during an emergency and all year long by connecting with the City of Palo Alto online here.

Learn more about getting prepared for disasters and emergencies, including additional resources, at www.cityofpaloalto.org/preparedness.

For other community preparedness resources, go here.

This free American Red Cross Family Plan Form lets you create a plan on paper you can copy for your family.

This free Santa Clara County ReadySCC App allows you to create and keep your plan on your mobile phones.

This free CAL FIRE Wildfire Preparedness Action Plan web-based app lets you build a custom plan for your family.

Sign up for AlertSCC which alerts you to unforeseen events or emergencies such as natural disasters, crime bulletins, power outages, and more.

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