Is Your Family Prepared?
As we recently reflected on the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on our way of life, new, rather recent events such as the earthquakes in Japan and near Richmond, VA, forest fires and droughts in Texas and other mainly Southern states and hurricanes and floods locally and across the nation warn us to pay attention. Now is not the time to become complacent about the need to prepare our families for unexpected disruptions or tragedies brought on by foreign or domestic sources or by natural disasters. A tragedy can happen at any place, at any time. And it can and does happen to us here in Hampden Township.
Closer to home, we experienced the earth tremors from the VA earthquake; saw the tornados in nearby Columbia, PA, and on the PA/MD border. And the aftermath damage and floods from Hurricane Irene exposed additional vulnerabilities throughout our area. Winter always brings various amounts of snow, ice and flooding all around us. Crime, fatal shootings and school lock downs take place more frequently than we wish.
This short note is not meant to alarm anyone. We still enjoy our freedom, security and relative happiness that are part of our heritage. But we do need to be more attuned to the new realities associated with our roles as parents, residents and concerned citizens. And we need to take a few moments to sit down with our families, and perhaps co-workers, to think ahead about “emergency” possibilities and make some plans now that will prevent uncertainty and mass confusion should the unexpected occur.
There is no doubt that tragic, unanticipated events are coming to us. At one end of the spectrum, it could be a flood or tornado. It could be a major incident at school or at an athletic or public activity. Or it could be a domestic or foreign terrorist event of major proportions. In fact, anti-terror analysts concluded that it is not if, but when we will be hit. It’s just a matter of time before suicide bombers visit our malls, our athletic stadiums, our major buildings and revered monuments, our transportation centers and other places where numbers of us gather to enjoy life. Hopefully, our planning and preparedness efforts will prevent those man-made tragedies and hopefully, mitigate the effects of the inevitable natural disasters. To do so, we MUST be aware, must plan for and must be able to respond to all these episodes, as individuals, as families and as a community.
Hampden Township does plan for these unexpected situations through training and exercises involving our police, fire and ambulance responders, our Navy and mutual aid neighbors, the school district, and through the Emergency/Disaster Planning efforts with the county and region. Our Township Emergency/Disaster Preparedness team includes Emergency Preparedness Officer, Doug Gochenaur; our Commissioner Liaison for fire and emergency planning; our Township Manager and Assistant Manager; police, fire, ambulance chief’s, staff and volunteers; and the members of each major department in the Township. We collectively completed National Incident Management System training and conduct practical training each week at the fire company. We apply desk-top and hands-on exercises when practical. Collectively, we are called “first responders.” And for most emergencies we will be the first to respond. The Township also has an email alert system to provide notification and updates on emergency situations and will be part of the county emergency telephone notification system.
However, in many if not all situations, especially those of catastrophic proportions, the real first responder will be you, the parent, the family member, the worker or supervisor at any given location. The formal first responders may not be able to get to your location for an extended length of time due to any number of reasons, the least of which is that they most likely will be engaged at one location or another and just cannot get to your area as quickly as you or they would like. The ball will be in your court so to speak and you must ask yourself now, do you know what to do? Are you ready? Is your family ready? Do you have flashlights that work? Do you have a battery operated radio? Do you have sufficient food and water to last for 3 or 4 days? Do you have a small camping stove should you need to heat your food or water? Do you know how to turn off your utilities should it become necessary to do so? Do you have a First Aid Kit? Do you know how to use it? Do your children have an out of area phone number to call should they be evacuated while you are at work? How will you communicate should cell phones be down? Do your family members know what to expect should you be separated during an evacuation?
To be honest, most of us will answer no; we really haven’t thought much about it. We leave emergency responses to the first responders. We perceive that since nothing has really happened to us of a serious nature, there is no need to concern ourselves now about something that hasn’t happened. Such an attitude could be a serious mistake, a mistake that you can rectify by spending just a few moments with your family around the kitchen table.
The Township home page, under emergency guidelines, provides a link to the Family Planning Guide that you should read and review with your spouse and children or you can pick up a copy of the Family Planning Guide at the Township Municipal Building. You can also go to www.ready.gov for additional family preparedness information. You can call the Township to sign up for emergency email notifications. Something as simple as reporting suspicious activity or agreeing to a phone number to call should the family be separated are minor but extremely important acts. Please make the time now so your loved ones are not caught off guard and unprepared.
Disasters of varying types and magnitude take place somewhere in the US almost every day. And they take place here, in our Hampden Township. Terrorism, though not an every day event, definitely is here! By nature, these events are difficult, if not impossible, to prevent totally. But coordinated planning and aggressive emergency responder efforts, supported by an informed and participating public, can help prevent or mitigate the effects of natural disasters and the efforts of those who so violently oppose us and are willing to attack us and our way of life. I am confident that our nation, state and local emergency responders will continue to adjust at all levels to these new realities of life. And I am equally confident that each one of us wants to do his or her part to prepare and protect our loved ones no matter how grave the situation. Act now. If you have any concerns or questions about your family emergency planning issues, please call or email the Township and we will make every effort to respond to you quickly and professionally.
Donald R. McCallin
Fire and Emergency Planning