GEMA emphasizes
disaster-readiness plans

By Jason A. Smith


Georgia residents are now able to increase their efforts to keep their families safe in emergencies, as a result of recent action taken at the state level.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) has added a pair of online tools to help the public create personalized plans to respond to disasters. These tools promote the use of customized emergency checklists, as well as the importance of devising a strategy in responding to disasters.

According to GEMA Spokesperson Lisa Janak, such plans are particularly necessary in Georgia, an area which "runs the disaster gauntlet." She said a recent survey by the organization, revealed disturbing facts concerning the public's level of readiness for adverse circumstances.

"Eighty percent of the people who took the survey thought they were prepared for disasters, but were not," explained Janak.

To combat those numbers, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation in January, as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week. The measure instituted the Ready Georgia campaign, in conjunction with the state's Department of Public Health.

The campaign is designed to educate residents regarding the need for emergency preparation.

Janak noted that GEMA is engaged in efforts to emphasize "three easy steps" in order to be ready for a crisis, whether natural or manmade.

"Those steps are to get a kit, make a plan and be informed," she said.

Items which GEMA deems essential for an emergency kit include: water, food, batteries and a radio from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The information about GEMA's program can be viewed at www.ready.ga.gov.

"It's the only web site in the state devoted to disaster preparedness," said Janak. "It contains information about pandemic flu, biological threats, natural and manmade disasters."

Local officials support GEMA's recent efforts to teach residents how to deal with disasters. Henry County's Emergency Management Director Don Ash said his department has already taken steps toward educating the public in the area.

"We did a Ready Henry campaign in September that paralleled GEMA's program," he added. "We feel like an educated and informed public is the best line of security for families. It allows them to make plans to address any emergency that may come."