Viewpoints

America’s PrepareAthon! helps build resilient communities

By Gwen Camp

Despite the compelling images and heartbreaking stories of recent disasters, our research shows nearly 60 percent of Americans have not participated in a preparedness drill or exercise at their workplace, school, or home in the past year. As local leaders, you have a unique ability and responsibility to make sure your constituents are as prepared as possible to withstand and recover from a disaster.

What can you do? Help organize a community-wide drill or event for whatever hazard is most relevant to your community. Bring together your emergency managers, first responders, school administrators, and business and community leaders to plan and conduct an emergency drill or other preparedness activity. Every disaster is local and that means that getting ready for one needs to be local too.

America’s PrepareAthon! is a movement focused on activating families, businesses, schools, and houses of worship to prepare for emergencies through hazard-specific group discussions, drills, and exercises. The goals are to increase the number of people who:

  • Understand which disasters could happen in their community;
  • Know what to do to be safe and mitigate damage;
  • Take action to improve their preparedness; and
  • Participate in community resilience planning.

Visit ready.gov/prepare to get started, register your activities, and download free, customizable posters, banner ads, and other promotional materials. This is your opportunity to make your community a safer and more resilient one.

Join the millions of people participating in this spring’s National PrepareAthon! Day! on April 30.

Just visit ready.gov/prepare to:

  • Take Action: Know your hazards and choose your activities.
  • Be Counted: Create your account and register your activities.
  • Spread the Word: Download materials to promote your day of action.

America’s PrepareAthon! supports these actions by offering materials to facilitate family, organizational, and community preparedness for six natural hazards: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, and winter storm. America’s PrepareAthon! also offers a variety of customizable promotional materials for these hazards so communities can tailor their outreach materials for their needs.

Research shows that communities are better prepared to withstand a disaster and recover more quickly if the entire community is involved. Cities and counties across the country are already planning communitywide events for America’s PrepareAthon! that bring together schools, the business community, city government, faith leaders, hospitals, individuals and families, and others to participate in preparedness drills and activities for hazards that are relevant to their area.

A great example of this is the City of Smyrna, GA. They integrated America’s PrepareAthon! into their already existing Ready Smyrna campaign. America’s PrepareAthon! builds on the Ready campaign’s primary goal to increase disaster awareness through education by encouraging Americans to take action for the specific hazards they face. As a result they created Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon! which focuses on the whole community taking action so that everyone is prepared in the event of disaster.

Over the last year Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon! conducted two community-wide tornado drills that involved area schools, businesses, a hospital, day cares, and assisted living facilities, and they are currently preparing for their next preparedness event. When Smyrna’s preparedness was put to the test during a recent ice storm, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon found they “were better prepared than any other community” as a result of having participated in Ready Smyrna’s PrepareAthon!

The bottom line is that building a resilient nation requires the involvement of the whole community working together to increase individual and community preparedness. Invest now. It takes just a few minutes but it makes all the difference.

Gwen Camp is the director of individual and community preparedness for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For more information about America’s PrepareAthon!, visit ready.gov/prepare and join the Twitter discussion @PrepareAthon, #PrepareAthon.

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