Individuals can make a difference in their own community but not everyone has bought into preparedness. Research on personal preparedness indicates that individuals who believe they are prepared for disasters often are not as prepared as they think. In addition, some admit they do not plan to prepare at all.
The challenge: Maximizing awareness and encouraging participation in disaster preparedness activities to affect change at the community level.
Our nation’s emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they cannot do it alone. We must all embrace our personal responsibility to be prepared – in doing so; we contribute to the safety and security of our communities as well.
and now, a brief excerpt
Annie was standing at the end of a long hallway. A group of people were walking towards her. She noticed tear streaked faces and vacant eyes that had already seen too much. One woman was holding a toddler to her chest; both of them were soaked through and shivering. A young girl was holding a calico cat; the cat clung to her, and both of them looked scared. Arms around the furry feline, paws around the little girl’s neck, both of them looked like all they had in the world was each other. Silent tears were rolling down the girl’s cheeks.
The destination for the mass of bedraggled storm victims was a rickety table. Two women sat there asking gentle questions and taking names. As the evacuees signed in they were ushered into the room behind the table. A man brought in a heavy wool blanket and wrapped the woman and toddler in it. Through the tears and anxious whispers Annie heard the words rain, tornadoes and death. The shocked expressions and quivering voices bore testimony to the fierce winds of the monsters that left devastation in their path.
Looking around the room now teeming with both the rescued and the rescuers, Annie saw trophies and photos of uniformed men and women marching next to fire trucks and ambulances. The local fire department opened its doors as a shelter for the survivors of the storm. Even the heroes who were doling out blankets, hot coffee and comfort looked scared and overwhelmed. Every now and then she saw a shelter worker offer a consoling and light touch on the arm, a hug, a shoulder – human touches that were beyond her ability. Annie wondered why she was there, what she could do to help them.
The evacuees clung to family members and friends who walked in with them. She heard people crying as they spoke about homes that collapsed around them. A few people stood and shouted random names with passionate pleas for any information. A shelter volunteer began handing out dry clothes for people who needed, others got blankets and toiletries, a few of the very young were given stuffed animals and toy trucks. A non-stop stream of coffee, juice boxes and cookies were offered all around. People sat at tables clutching their new possessions, an armful of material things that represented all they owned.
No one saw her there, no one could take comfort from her touch, and no one could hear her words of encouragement.