When You're Prepared, Everyone Prospers!

1997 flooding in Grand Forks, North Dakota, as captured by Jordan Green, GreenLight Designs (Flickr Creative Commons).

In April 1997, the National Guard evacuated my mother from our family home in Grand Forks, North Dakota due to flooding. She left with only a purse and the clothing on her back. Over 60,000 people were displaced and a downtown fire destroyed or damaged 11 buildings on three blocks.

When residents were allowed back in their homes, many found incredible devastation. I went home to help clean up the debris. Homes, cars, and personal belongings had washed away. Total damages to the region: $3.5 billion.

Your Office of Emergency Management offers checklists for your home, office, and car, as well as your pets.

When President Bill Clinton visited the disaster site, he spoke to the refugees at Grand Forks Air Force Base about community spirit and courage, stating "Water cannot wash that away. Fire cannot burn that away. And blizzards cannot freeze that away." I witnessed so much during my stay.

Years later, I thought about that event when I heard Ana-Maria Jones talk about emergency preparedness. Ana-Maria directs Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD). She was recognized in FEMA's May 2013 publication, Toward More Resilient Futures: Putting Foresight Into Practice.

For me, the takeaway message was this: When you're prepared, everyone prospers! CARD uses that positive message to reduce fear and unite families, neighbors, and other community members. This makes a lot of sense.

Even though we are reminded to be ready for power outages, hot weather, winter storms, and more by news media, flyers, and emergency management messages, many of us do not want to think about disasters. I think that "preparing to prosper" is a concept that we can all embrace.

So, what can you do?

  • Participate in emergency preparedness events and training exercises. Each exercise and event is an opportunity to become more aware of the importance of getting and being ready for any disaster.
  • Build a kit that you can pick up and carry at a moment's notice. Keep it stocked with a 7–10 day supply of food, water, medications, personal contact information, etc. If you can't afford to buy your own "go-kit" items, think about asking your family, friends and loved ones for preparedness supplies for a holiday, birthday, or other event. If you have a kit, consider helping others to assemble their own. For checklists, click here.
  • Keep a personal health record, including a list of your medications and other important health information, in your go-kit or in a wallet or purse.

Prepare to prosper … it's a great motto for each and every day.

Mary Pat O'Leary, RN is a planner with Aging and Disability Services, where staff have participated in a variety of emergency preparedness events and training exercises.