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Officials campaign for emergency readiness in 2012

Officials with state and local emergency management agencies urge preparedness in the new year.

Georgians have experienced their share of severe weather in 2011 — from January’s crippling freeze, to April’s deadly tornado outbreak. Many were prepared, but some were not, according to local emergency management officials.

“Last year’s winter storm lasted three days or more,” said Clayton County Fire Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke. “People were out on the road that didn’t need to be,” she said. “People should stay off the road. If there is bad weather coming, try to stay home. It would have been much easier for us to respond to these emergencies, if people were not out on the roads.”

As a new year approaches, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security’s (GEMA) Ready Georgia campaign is asking residents, families and businesses to make preparedness a priority in the new year.

“Now, we have these [weather] systems that pop up pretty quickly,” said Henry County Emergency Management Director Don Ash. “We always encourage our citizens that have NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] weather radios to keep abreast of what’s going on, and be alert and attentive to what’s going on around them.”

Eight out of 10 Georgians admit that preparation, planning and emergency supplies, will help them handle a large-scale disaster, but only one in 10 has taken the necessary steps toward personal preparedness, according to a 2011 survey conducted by GEMA.

“The damage caused by recent disasters serves as an unfortunate reminder of the importance of preparedness,” said Charley English, director of GEMA/Homeland Security. “As you gather with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, take the time to talk about preparedness. Make a resolution you can keep, and ring in the New Year with a plan in place.”

Research has revealed that individuals aware of the Ready Georgia campaign are more than twice as likely to be prepared for a large-scale emergency as others –– ultimately increasing their chance of surviving a potentially deadly storm.

“Being prepared is the best defense against the unexpected, so use this opportunity to learn how to become your own first responder, during emergency situations,” said English. “Tornadoes, storms and floods can devastate communities, but the damage can be minimized if we’re prepared.”

GEMA recommends that, when preparing for man-made or natural disasters, residents create a Ready Kit of emergency supplies. Supplies should include non-perishable food, water, a NOAA all-hazards weather radio and a flash light with extra batteries.

“Most of these things you have in your home,” Chief Feilke said. “You just don’t have them ready in a kit, per se.”

Feilke advises that residents keep at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. She said citizens should also keep in touch with their families and develop a communications plan to reconnect with them in the event of an emergency.

The battalion chief said residents should be sure to keep their personal information safe, and with them. She said those with land line telephones should be sure to have a cord phone available, because cordless phones will not work during a power outage.

Feilke said, along with having a NOAA weather radio, it is important to keep smart phones charged to have mobile and Internet access to touch base with family and to get updated information about emergency situations.

“You can’t depend on hearing a siren, if a tornado hits; there are mobile apps to Ready Georgia and The Weather Center for alerts,” Feilke said. “We encourage people to stay informed, and don’t depend on other people to tell you.”

Residents can learn more about disaster preparation by visiting Clayton County’s Ready Clayton web site at www.readyclayton.com. Visitors to Ready Georgia’s web site, www.ready.ga.gov, can download a free mobile app and create an online profile to receive a tailored plan for the entire family that includes the specific amount of supplies to put in their household Ready Kits.

“Prepare ahead of time, because if you wait until it happens, it’s too late,” said Feilke. “You can’t wait until the last minute.”