COMMENTARY: Building a culture of preparedness of Delaware

Emergency preparedness comes in many forms. It comes in the fire safety demonstrations put on by volunteers; it’s the safety warnings and messaging provided by trusted weather sources and local officials; it is the flashlight you bought and keep in case of emergency, along with a spare pack of batteries. Preparedness for disasters takes many shapes and sizes, and both the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III want to encourage those efforts, large and small, as we look to create a culture of preparedness in Delaware.

Building and sustaining a culture of preparedness is a top priority for both DEMA and FEMA. But it does not come easy. Preparedness requires everyone’s effort — individuals, communities, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and all levels of government. We all benefit from identifying and minimizing our risk to disasters, through insurance, planning, and taking action, while also helping our neighbors and our communities to be better prepared for future emergencies. Developing a culture of preparedness starts with understanding what we are preparing for and planning for how we will reduce the impact of an emergency, and just as importantly, why it is so necessary to plan and prepare.

Real and potential emergencies take place every day. From a household fire, winter weather, flooding, even the threat of hurricanes, tornadoes, or other hazards, knowing what our risk is can instruct us on how to mitigate its effects. One small step is to determine what you may need for any emergency — make a plan. Knowing what to do can make all the difference when you are faced with a crisis situation. Think about who you would call, or where you would go — that’s the beginning of your emergency plan.

Then, make a kit. Your home, business, and vehicle should be equipped to ensure your safety and survival during an emergency. Building a true culture of preparedness starts with small steps like these, which in turn lead to stronger actions at home and in our communities to be more resilient in the face of a potential disaster.

DEMA and FEMA Region III have information on our websites to help you get started on your plan — start by visiting www.PrepareDE.org and www.Ready.gov to learn more about your risk and to develop your plan. DEMA and the Delaware Citizen Corps continue to engage with citizens and communities through the Delaware State Fair, Family Emergency Preparedness Day, and other outreach events across the state.

These events provide an opportunity to ask questions and learn about risk. After knowing what to do, following through with meaningful action is the next step to being ready for disaster. Whether you purchase flood insurance, take life-saving training, or take other steps to protect your property and belongings through mitigation efforts, having a safeguard against both risk and emergencies can help you recover faster when an incident does occur. This follows with the next element of building a culture of preparedness — helping our neighbors.

Whether you join a local emergency response team, learn critical first aid skills, or check on your neighbors to ensure they are OK, preparedness requires all of us, as individuals, organizations, and as a community, to be ready. All disasters start local, and the first person on the scene of an emergency is a first responder in some manner. You may be the help until other help arrives.

Learning skills such as CPR, Stop the Bleed, or even as simple a matter as how to shut off the gas in your home make a vast difference in our ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies. To learn more, check with your utilities, your local or county emergency managers and first responders, and through www.PrepareDE.org and www.Ready.gov.

Lastly, a culture of preparedness requires that we learn from the past and use those lessons to ensure our future preparedness. Planning, investing in our preparedness through insurance and taking action, and empowering our neighbors and communities happens first locally, and experience and training all benefit those efforts.

Participation in local events and exercises, including the upcoming National Level Exercise, will also offer ways to build a culture of preparedness. It takes all of us, recognizing our risks and acting upon them, to be better prepared for tomorrow’s emergencies.

To learn more about DEMA, their mission, and resources available to Delawareans, please visit http://www.dema.delaware.gov/. To learn more about FEMA Region III and our programs, please visit www.FEMA.gov and https://www.fema.gov/region-iii-dc-de-md-pa-va-wv.

A.J. Schall is the director of DEMA. MaryAnn Tierney is the FEMA Region III regional administrator.

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