DOWNEY - The month of September has been proclaimed national preparedness month. In many ways the month is a pivotal one. The weather generally begins to cool off. We travel less and stay home more. It's the beginning of football season! School resumes and plays a part in many changes for our community members.This week, let's apply our past formula for improvement (1 part planning, 1 part supplies, and 1 part learning) to our emergency preparedness efforts. Most students find themselves attending new classrooms and many students are now attending different schools. The time schedules have likely changed as have the teachers. For those students going to a new school, the route to school may now be very different from the last one. This weekend is a great time to begin preparing for these anticipated changes. Families can get out and take a leisurely walk or drive to their child's school in preparation for the first day. Is there an alternate route that could be used if the favorite route is blocked? They can establish the safest route for their child to take and where their student can be dropped-off or picked-up if needed. Emergency contact cards can be printed out, wrapped in a zip-lock bag and stowed in a school back-pack. Family friends and neighbors can also be re-contacted and confirmed as potential responsible parties in case a parent is unable to be there for their child due to an emergency. Be sure the emergency card kept in the back-pack has the contact information for the family friends and neighbors who are prepared to assist in an emergency. As the children get ready for their first day of class, consider packing a few emergency essentials in their backpacks. An energy bar and a bottle of water don't add much weight but make a child much more comfortable if they have to miss a snack or lunch period because of an emergency. There are many 'space' blankets available that take up very little room but can keep a child dry and a little warmer should he or she need to stay in an unheated area while waiting to be picked up from school. Emergency kits are available for purchase for children to take to school, as well. Finally, a small flashlight and a whistle are always a great addition to a child's stash of emergency supplies. Many children have cell phones. Most of them know how to use them very well. They know how to call their friends (and parents) and how to send and receive text messages. Not all parents (and grandparents) can use the text message option on their phone as well as their children. However, in an emergency, the text message system may be operational long before the cell 'voice' system is working. So parents should give 'texting' a try. Who knows, it could improve communications! Battery problems are also a frequent problem with many students' cell phones. Parents and their children should learn how they can keep those batteries charged (develop a schedule) and what to do if their child's phone doesn't work (hint: any other #s the parent can call to check on the child). Consider opting-in to the City Reverse 911 system as well (www.downeyca.org). This option allows you to enter your cell phone and e-mail address into the City notification system. The system also allows community members to list up to six 'addresses of interest'. Parents may want to list their child's school address to be sure they are notified if the school grounds are in an area receiving an emergency or community alert. All of the above concepts can be applied to starting a new job (or returning to one after an absence). Developing a good emergency communications plan, sharing your emergency plans (meeting places, helping neighbors, etc) with your family and having some emergency supplies in your office and car are responsible actions for families to complete. Stay safe and prepare yourself and your family for the predictable emergencies we may experience in our community. Questions or comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
********** Published: September 2, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 20