July is National Bioterrorism/Disaster Education Awareness Month

July 28, 2014

Disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. The key to getting through whatever may be happening – hurricanes, flooding, bioterrorism - is preparation. And preparations are always easier – and more effective – if they are made at times of relative calm, before the onset of a disaster. July is an ideal time to prepare as the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) joins the nation in observing National Bioterrorism/Disaster Education Awareness Month.

If you’re not sure what makes a good disaster kit, a great place to start is the recently improved Ready Georgia mobile app (www.ready.ga.gov). The app was created through a partnership between DPH and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), which just re-launched a new and improved mobile experience for tens of thousands of registered users. The app now boasts better preparedness information and improved information on weather threats.

“Any amount of preparation can make a difference,” said Scott Minarcine, DPH’s public health emergency preparedness grant director. “Users will be better able to consider all the most essential needs.”

Some essential items could be hard to assemble at the on-set of a disaster because they are items that virtually everyone needs, and they can be useful regardless of what kind of disaster is happening.

“Bottled water, flashlights, candles, matches, a small pillow and blanket, extra batteries, cash and fuel for vehicles are some of the top items to consider,” said Bruce Jeffries, acting deputy director for the Division of Health Protection for DPH. He adds that food and clothing supplies, medications and copies of important documents are also valuable considerations.

Georgians are advised to be ready to provide for themselves for 72 hours without outside help from first responders. And planners say it’s a good idea to prepare for an even longer duration, since utility outages and continuing threats may push the disaster situation well beyond 72 hours.

Making plans that take into account the needs of yourself and your family, which may include children and pets, is a key first step, according to Wendy Smith, DPH epidemiologist and liaison to the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section.

“Each family member needs to know where they should go, how they will communicate, what to do if they cannot communicate, and what to take with them,” said Smith. “I think talking with the family about personal responsibility is really important, too.”

Georgia is susceptible to a wide range of natural disasters, from ice storms to hurricanes. Manmade threats ranging from terrorism to industrial accidents are also a concern. Any of these potential disasters can strike with little or no warning. The best chance for the best outcome is to be prepared ahead of time. And the greater the number of people who are self-sustaining in an emergency, the more time emergency responders can devote to those in the greatest need of help.  

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