September is National Preparedness Month! Being prepared is not just having a “bugout” bag at the ready. Preparedness is about taking stock to ensure safety for yourself and family in various conditions. When you hear “preparedness,” you may automatically think of disaster or national emergency. But it’s also about coping with various local emergencies including: weather, active shooter, hazardous materials, chemical, cybersecurity, and power outages.
FEMA encourages Americans to be prepared to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. National Preparedness Month is FEMA’s focused outreach effort to educate and empower everyone through local and online events. National Preparedness Month activities in Montgomery County are coordinated through the County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Preparedness in your home starts with maintenance. Proper home maintenance can not only help mitigate a disaster, but also prevent one as well. Regular maintenance of the home’s systems is obviously suggested. However, there are specific emergency related recommendations to help you in your home, which include: testing smoke alarms monthly, replacing smoke alarms every ten years, and knowing how to shut off your home’s utilities. Additionally, to prevent a chimney fire, you should have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified and reputable professional.
Information is key to getting through an emergency. If you have a cell phone, you may receive “Wireless Emergency Alerts” through the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, which includes amber alerts, weather alerts, and notifications from the Emergency Alert System. However, the Montgomery Alert system can inform you of local government and school information, weather alerts, as well as traffic and infrastructure issues (montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMH S/AlertMontgomery).
Do you have an emergency plan? You should have a plan in case an emergency occurs in and out of the home. Take time to update your home fire evacuation plan, and practice it with a family fire drill. Choose a family rendezvous point in case an emergency occurs during work/school hours and the home is inaccessible. Because cell phones are not reliable during emergencies, alternate means of communication should be considered. Create a family communication plan by including: family contact information, family physician, medical facility information, and an out-of-town point of contact.
Is your homeowner’s insurance adequate? The aftermath of recent hurricanes and floods have demonstrated that home owners with proper insurance coverage recover from those disasters quicker. Insurance and emergency experts recommend to regularly review your insurance policy with your agent to ensure that the replacement costs of your home and possessions are covered. Coverage varies depending on the policy. Experts recommended to discuss flood and disaster insurance with your insurance agent.
As for the “bugout” bag… It’s recommended that you have an emergency kit in the home and in your car. A basic kit should be able to get you and your family through 72 hours of an emergency. However, extreme emergencies have revealed that infrastructure can be disrupted for weeks. Many experts encourage having an expanded home emergency kit to last at least two weeks in case of a prolonged lack of infrastructure.
Learn more about National Preparedness Month at FEMA’s Ready.gov (ready.gov/September). Ready.gov provides detailed information about preparedness for yourself, your family and your home, including assembling an emergency kit. Local preparedness information can be obtained from Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs).
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Success in Potomac, MD. You can access more information at DanKrell.com.