September is National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month is an observance each September to raise awareness about being prepared for disasters and emergencies.

According to ready.gov/september, the 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”

Duane Davis, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said he strongly encourages people to have a plan.

“If people go on a trip or are going to have a wedding, they usually stop and plan the event out,” Davis said. “In your preparedness for disasters or emergencies, you need to think what could impact your household personally and your community.”

Davis said in the past, people have always looked at things such as tornadoes, severe weather, heat and snow and how those things could impact them and what they need to take care of themselves and their families in those situations.

Now, preparing for a pandemic has been added to the list.

“This past 18 months has really shed a new light on preparedness week with the pandemic,” he said. “Before now, a pandemic wasn’t thought about very much, and so it got pushed to the side, but COVID has demonstrated that families need to be prepared.”

If someone in your family gets COVID, are you prepared for it? Do you have a place for a sick family member to be isolated from the rest of the family to prevent spreading the illness to them, too?

“Also, if an elderly family members gets sick, does that person have enough food and water in their residence to sustain them?” Davis said. “Do they have family members or friends to come check on them?”

Davis said if people are prepared for an event, it usually doesn’t matter what it is because they prepare for it in the same way.

“If you lose electricity because of a tornado or because of an ice storm, you still need to have food, water, medicines and ways to keep warm,” he said. “A tornado could damage your house, but so could a flood, and you should have an alternate location to go to for shelter.”

He said people should have enough supplies for themselves and their pets to get them through 72 hours.

Families should talk about preparedness ahead of time, and the discussion needs to include their children.

“Any time a family has to evacuate their house, they need a planned location to go to so everybody is accounted for,” Davis said. “A lot of times in the heat of the moment, people are in panic mode, and they could get separated.”

Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas said whether it’s a tree or some other location on your property, make sure the meeting location is away from your house during a fire.

“The main thing is to have smoke detectors in your home and keep them in good working order and replace the batteries every year,” Lucas said. “A fire extinguisher is a very good thing to have in the house, too, a couple of 2½-half pound ABC dry powder fire extinguishers.”

October is Fire Prevention Month and the first full week is Fire Prevention Week, so Lucas said they will be putting out some fire safety reminders then, too.

He said for many years, local kindergartners visited the fire station for a tour and a fire safety lesson. Then they’d receive a fire helmet, a red apple and a sticker.

“We couldn’t do it with COVID last year, so instead, the library made a video tour of the firehouse,” Lucas said. “Then we went to all of the schools and shared that video and brought along our mascot, Sparky, and the kids still got their apple, fire hat and sticker.”

He said they hope to visit the schools and show the video again this year.

Another safety precaution Davis recommends is having a way to receive weather alert notifications.

“Whether it’s by TV, radio, weather alert radio or internet, any one of those things may not be available, so you need to have a backup,” Davis said. “Severe weather alert radios alert people for severe thunderstorms, flash flood warnings and tornadoes in your immediate area.”

He said the purpose of outdoor alerts or tornado sirens is to notify people who are outside and may not have their phone with them or might be down at the ballpark when severe weather is approaching.

“We just got a couple more sirens, so I believe we have five in the county and seven in the city of Seymour now,” Davis said. “It usually indicates a tornado warning and you need to seek shelter immediately, but they are not designed to wake you up at night or to hear from inside your house.”

Davis said in case of a high wind situation, those living in a mobile home are very vulnerable to high wind impacts.

“That’s why it’s very important to get early notification of severe weather, especially in a wind event,” Davis said. “Then you can have time to get to a place of shelter while the bad weather moves through your area.”

Another area of preparedness includes planning for what your children should do if they get off of the school bus and nobody’s home.

“Do they have a list of phone numbers to call? Do they stay there or do they go to a neighbor’s house? That’s a discussion to have,” Davis said.

When an event happens in Jackson County, Davis said generally, neighbors become true neighbors.

“The people in Jackson County are really passionate about taking care of their neighbors,” he said. “Neighbors will check on each other and their loved ones, and that is tremendous in any response.”