Emergency management officials recommend that a household be prepared to care for itself in the first three days of an incident. This is because it will take time to mobilize the resources to respond to a disaster. As the saying goes, “All disasters are local.” This means that Hamilton County residents and resources will be the first on the scene- and will have to continue to manage the incident- until other assistance arrives.
“We cannot stress enough that individuals and families be ready to provide for their needs during a disaster,” says Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department Emergency Response Coordinator Maegan Kerr, “We recommend making a family plan now because you will forget things when you are trying to think under stress.”
Key elements of a family plan are:
- Basic supplies to last three days, such as water, nonperishable food, and medicines;
- A means to get information, such as a battery operated radio and fresh, spare batteries;
- A communication plan so family members can contact each other if the disaster strikes when they are apart; this also means deciding on where to meet; include children in this discussion;
- Reviewing and practicing your plan every time you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
While a readiness plan should be “all-hazard,” meaning able to meet any type of incident, there are some incidents that are more likely to occur in Hamilton County than others. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) has identified thirteen hazards of greatest risk to Tennesseans:
- Extreme temperatures,
- Geologic (for example, earthquake or mudslides),
- Severe weather (for example, localized lightning, high winds, and hail),
- Communicable disease (for example, influenza),
- Dam/levee failure,
- Hazardous material release (including nuclear radiation),
- Terrorism, and
- Critical infrastructure (for example, power outage, loss of water, or bridge collapse).
Consider how your plans need to adapt to these thirteen hazards.
If you have pets, consider their needs in your plan. Discuss your plans with your veterinarian.
Lastly, natural or manmade disasters will take a toll on everyone’s mental health. It is important to support each other during this time of need. Do not be afraid to seek mental health or pastoral assistance to help deal with the feelings and memories of the incident. For more information or to volunteer to help in a disaster, visit Health.HamiltonTN.org, or call the Health Department’s Emergency Preparedness program at (423) 209-8074