If you work for an emergency response agency such as the police or fire department, or volunteer for a disaster response and recovery agency such as the American Red Cross, you are likely motivated by a desire to help people. You will be among those the community looks to when disaster strikes. But will you be ready when the time comes?
The first step in being ready to help the community is to ensure your own family is prepared in the event of a disaster. A disaster is by definition an overwhelming event, but those who will be best able to help others will be those whose own families are safe and as well provided for as possible.
To address emergency responders and their families specifically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed the Ready Responder Toolkit. According to FEMA, this toolkit “is designed to provide emergency response agencies with a series of planning tools to help prepare their personnel and their families for emergencies.” The toolkit can be used individually, as well, by proactive members of the emergency response community.
The steps toward family preparedness are basically the same as for other members of the community, with the exception of preparing your loved ones to manage without you during the response period. The FEMA toolkit explains that taking these steps is especially important for those with emergency response duties.
“Without taking the appropriate steps to prepare themselves and their families in advance of a disaster, responders will be hindered in their ability to perform their jobs when a disaster strikes, and will instead be focused on personal and family safety. Appropriate advance planning lessens the burden on responders during a response, enabling them to devote more of their mental resources to the task of securing the community.”
Whether you are employed as a first responder or volunteer for a response and recovery organization, your own safety, and that of your family is number one. You cannot function well as a responder without knowing your loved ones are safe. In order to help others when disaster strikes, you need to have your own house in order before it strikes.
WUECC Volunteer Public Information Officer