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A call for personal preparedness - Charley English & Jeff Hood

Severe storms, extreme heat, a crippling freeze, deadly tornadoes, terrible wildfires … Mother Nature has managed to throw almost everything in the book at us within six short months. With just half a year under our belt, the state of Georgia and metro Atlanta have already experienced their share of severe weather, and we obviously don't know what's in store for the second half of 2011.

Unfortunately, for thousands of Georgians, these disasters have resulted in the loss of property –– and even human life. Your team at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA) works hard to reduce the negative impact of natural disasters statewide, but it is impossible to eliminate the hazards we face daily. That's why personal preparedness is so important, and why we need your help.

You are your best first responder.

With this in mind, we were heartened to learn from our research that half of Georgians believe we have a duty to help each other during an emergency. It is that sense of personal community responsibility that will allow our state to respond and recover from nearly anything we may experience this year, or in the future.

Why then, did that sane research show that only 13 percent of us have taken personal responsibility to be fully prepared for an emergency? Eight out of 10 Georgians admit that preparation, planning and emergency supplies will help them handle a large-scale disaster, yet only one in 10 has taken the necessary steps toward personal preparedness.

Clearly, we have work to do.

Conversely, the same research showed some positive trends. The majority of Georgians say they have a flashlight and extra batteries, a first-aid kit and a three-day supply of nonperishable food. At least half of us have made a list of emergency numbers for family members, and safely have stored important documents.

What's more is that, since GEMA and the Georgia Department of Public Health launched the emergency preparedness campaign, Ready Georgia, thousands of residents have logged onto ready.ga.gov to create a Ready Profile, giving them access to tailored checklists of emergency supplies and customized emergency plans.

taking this initiative, those Georgians prove to be twice as likely to be prepared for a large-scale emergency as others. They are twice as likely to be able to reconnect with loved ones, if separated during a disaster. They are twice as likely to know their risk for flooding. They are twice as likely to survive potentially deadly storms.

When it comes to your family's safety, why would you not want to be on the winning side of those statistics? You keep extra food on hand, and there's a flashlight in the closet, but taking the next steps toward preparedness can give you an edge –– and becoming fully prepared is so simple, yet essential.

With another six months still ahead of us, there is no telling what Mother Nature has in store for the remainder of 2011. Only one certainty exists –– being prepared is your best defense against the unexpected. So while there seems to be a lull in the severe weather we have grown accustomed to, use this opportunity to prepare a Ready Kit of emergency supplies, create a family plan and become informed about the potential threats to you and your community.

We at GEMA will continue to provide an aggressive approach to preparedness, but no one can respond to your household quicker or better than you, if you are prepared.

Charley English is the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Jeff Hood is Clayton County's fire chief and director of the Clayton County Emergency Management Agency.