EDITORIAL: Will you be part of a severe-weather problem or part of the solution?

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When a disaster strikes, will you be part of the problem or part of the solution?

Just as it seems we’re coming out from under an onslaught of harsh weather, a declaration by the county commissioners a week ago reminds us: The severe-weather season is coming.

They voted at their March 3 meeting to designate March 16-22 Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

In 2013, seven weather and climate disaster events brought losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They included five severe weather and tornado events, a major flood event and the western drought and heat wave. Overall, these events killed 109 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

That agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency urge people to prepare for emergencies.

“We all want the peace of mind of knowing that our families, friends, homes and our businesses are safe and protected from threats of any kind,” they note in an opinion piece penned for the preparation week, observed nationally last week. “And while we can’t control where or when the next disaster will hit, we can take action by preparing ourselves and loved ones for emergencies and learning what actions to take.”

Preparing for large-scale emergencies is becoming popular. Television shows like National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” provide insights into ways some people are stockpiling food and other supplies. They’re also making and practicing plans – including contingency tactics – they’ll use to ensure they and people they love emerge from disasters healthy and in control of their circumstances.

Locally, we know severe-weather forecasts send people rushing to buy milk and bread. While we hope the motivations of preppers will never come to fruition, we suggest our friends and neighbors adopt some of their methods.

“Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step,” the weather and emergency-management agencies urge. “Being a force of nature means taking the proactive steps of knowing your risk, being prepared and taking appropriate actions before, during and after extreme weather. Even more than that, being a force of nature means saving lives by inspiring others to do the same through social media and face-to-face conversations with your friends, family and neighbors.”

Preparations include developing plans about where you’ll go when severe weather is imminent and assembling the supplies you’re likely to need. Flashlights, batteries, water, nonperishable food and first-aid supplies should top your list. Taking a cue from preppers, you can throw them into a “bugout bag,” a backpack or other container you can grab on the run as your surroundings crumble or as you climb from the debris of a violent storm.

That moment probably won’t provide opportunities to search or shop for the items you’ll need.

“You may need to survive on your own after an emergency,” FEMA advises. “This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days. Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week, or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages.”

We have had close encounters with tornadoes in recent years, and Perry County has a good system of first responders and other emergency-management officials. As they have in the past, we know they will go to work when a call comes.

Will you become part of their problem? Or will you be able to take care of yourself and those you love, and perhaps be available to lend a helping hand?

Go to ready.gov to find ways you can prepare yourself to become part of the solution.

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