First established in 2003, National Preparedness Month is held each September to increase public awareness about emergency preparedness. This year, the national theme for NPM is “Protect Your Legacy.” The genesis of NPM goes to the aftermath of the attacks on 9-11. The heroic response of emergency personnel and citizens after the attacks made everyone acutely aware of how important it is for governments and individuals to be prepared for any type of emergency.
As part of NPM, counties around the state will be making an extra effort to bring preparedness to the forefront through social media and other planned events. Officials in Ward County will be staging a disaster response drill later this month. The Emergency Management department will also have a booth at The BIG Event, hosted by local Girl Scouts. It will be held on September 25th at the Grand Hotel from 1-4 p.m.
In Cass County all county employees will be asked to attend active threat training to be held this month.
Stark County Emergency Management will be participating in Kind Hearts Day, held on September 24, 2022 at the Stark County Fairgrounds where they will have a booth and talk to the public about being prepared.
Jim Prochniak, Director of Emergency Preparedness in Cass County, says that emergency preparedness isn’t just for county and local agencies, it’s for everyone.
Prochniak says, “In today’s environment the likelihood of experiencing some event or incident is ever increasing. During major events, all responders are heavily tasked, and you must be prepared to take care of yourself for a period of time.”
Or, as the Burleigh County Emergency Management website says: You are the help until help arrives.
The Director of Emergency Management for Ward County is Jennifer Weichmann. She says, “We push emergency preparedness year round, but during NPM we want everyone to immerse themselves on the topic.”
Mike Smith, who is the Director of Emergency Management for Williams County, says that NPM “gives light to the fact that disasters can affect everyone, every family, city and community. During this month we want everyone to understand that they should have an emergency plan and a kit.”
Nonetheless, Prochniak worries that far too few people are prepared for an emergency, saying, “Most people feel they can simply ‘Google’ what to do and that is the extent of their plan.”
Smith says that having an emergency plan and a kit gives people a sense of relief. It also means that they’ll be in a position to help others, making it easier for emergency personnel to respond to the most urgent calls.
Emergency specialists are concerned with the lack of preparedness among the average citizens. They see the biggest problems to be in the larger towns and cities where most people are both unaware and under-prepared for potential emergencies.
“We have a lot of people new to the community,” says Weichmann. “They don’t know what a train derailment can do. Most have forgotten how bad the last blizzard was. I’d guess that less than half of those living in town have an emergency kit, and of those that do have a kit, half are totally inadequate.”
Prochniak says, “The most vulnerable in our community fall into two categories — Those who feel nothing will ever happen to them and are apathetic to any potential for disaster or precaution, and those who think responders or government, or somebody will take care of me during a disaster and so they make no plans at all.”
He adds that the most under-prepared population is in urban areas.
“I would rate the level of preparedness at a one to two on a scale of 1-10. I do believe rural demographics tend to be more capable or prepared than urban areas,” remarked Prochniak.
Smith agrees, noting that people living in rural areas usually have auxiliary power and already are pretty self-reliant. They are able to help each other out.
Weichmann suggests that people start by learning what kind of disasters are common in their area. Then she suggests getting an emergency kit for home and car with supplies to last through the first 72 hours of an emergency.
Smith says he could give just one 30-second message to people it would be to sit down with family and friends and come up with a plan.
“Prepare an emergency go-kit and the practice your plan. Then put your kit to the test, said Smith.
He suggests that you take your family on a camping trip with just your emergency kit to see how complete the kit is, adding, “If your kit can get you and your family through a couple days of camping, you’re better prepared than most.”
These county emergency specialists encourage residents to sign up to receive notifications of emergencies in their area. In Ward County, the contact system is Hyper-Reach, available on the county’s Emergency Preparedness home page. Residents of Williams County can sign up for the Williams County ALERT System. Cass County Emergency Preparedness also has a sign up to receive alerts as well as suggestions for how to develop a family emergency plan.
Weichmann sums it up succinctly: “Be prepared so you won’t be scared.”