Monday, September 02, 2013


Prepare for disasters before it is too late

Yards filled with downed trees and power lines, basements flooded with water, phone and internet connections disconnected and blocked roads are just a few of the effects of severe weather and disasters that we face in Eastern Connecticut.

Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, and Blizzard Nemo — severe weather events that will no doubt be talked about for generations to come — have left a lasting impact on our psyche.

If there is anything positive about having such severe weather in a short period of time, it’s that people are taking preparedness more seriously. It had been years since we had blizzards and hurricanes like we have in the last couple of years – now a whole new generation has seen firsthand how vulnerable our neck of the woods is.

As we begin National Preparedness Month (NPM) in September, some may think our area is due for a reprieve, but think again. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released an updated Atlantic hurricane season outlook that predicts an “above-normal season” with an estimated 13-19 named storms through October.

Besides hurricanes and snowstorms, our region can be impacted by many emergencies including: pandemics, cyber attacks, power failures, transportation accidents and workplace violence. Imagine, Interstate 95 being closed for days, or an electrical outage lasting weeks.

Although you may have never been personally affected by an emergency or disaster, the chances are you will in the future. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for people who have never lived through a disaster to have the attitude “It will never happen to me.”

But many experts believe disasters are becoming more common, and they are affecting more people each year. Studies show that people who discuss disasters and plan for emergencies respond and cope better than those who do not. Here are four simple steps we can take to be prepared for whatever might come our way:

Be Aware
•  Think about what emergencies can affect you, your neighborhood, and your community.
•  First responders are often overwhelmed during disasters and may not be able to provide immediate help like normal.  
•  Preparing will allow you to be more safe and comfortable during a disaster.
•  Follow advice from emergency officials, concerned family members, friends, and healthcare providers.

•  Create an emergency plan by writing down personal and emergency contact numbers, as well as medical information.
•  Plan with people you trust, including: neighbors, friends, and companions.
•  Be sure to think about your pets’ and service animals’ needs. Animals can become frightened, panicked and disoriented.

•  Create an emergency kit. Some items to include are: water, non-perishable food, radio with extra batteries, first aid kit, flashlight, clothes and money (cash and coins).
•  If you have an access or functional need, consider preparing essential supplies and medical equipment like oxygen, medication, and batteries.
•  Learn how to shelter in place, and find out where your community’s shelter is located. Be sure to come to the shelter with all the supplies you need.

Connect with community
•  Sign up for CT Alert and your local emergency alert system.
•  Volunteer with a Community Emergency Response Team, Medical Reserve Corp, Red Cross, community group, or local shelter.
•  Assist those in need, neighbors and friends during emergencies.

Emergencies and disasters are often stressful on the entire community. Citizens, organizations, businesses and governments all play important roles in the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery to a disaster — no one can do it alone.

Make no mistake, these unfortunate events will continue to happen, and we owe it to our families, our community and our nation to be more prepared and resilient. To learn more, go to or

Patrick Turek is the Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Mr. Turek or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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