Jonesboro ministry promoting disaster preparedness

Are you prepared to survive severe weather?

The tornado that hit last year in Tuscaloosa, Ala., caused widespread destruction in the college town, and led to the deaths of many people living in, and near, the city. But, it was also an inspiration for Marcia Atkins.

Atkins, the founder of Jonesboro-based Hope Family Ministries, watched news coverage of the tornado, and she immediately turned her thoughts to how it must have uprooted the lives of children living in Tuscaloosa. It also caused her to think about how prepared she would be, if a tornado hit her home.

“I realized I have a flashlight, some batteries and a hand-held radio, but they are not all in the same place,” she said. “If I had to get to a safe place in a hurry, I would probably only be able to grab one of them.” That realization got Atkins started on a campaign to educate people of the need to have emergency preparedness kits in their homes, and vehicles.

The Tuscaloosa tornado also gave Atkins inspiration to begin creating wearable emergency preparedness kits — called Personal Emergency Toppers, or P.E.T.s — that resemble vests. She intends to, someday, begin selling the vests through her ministry, in an effort to help people be prepared for severe weather.

Atkins is set to unveil her creation during a Rescue Readiness reception her ministry is scheduled to hold on Sunday, from 4 p.m., to 6 p.m., at the Drury Inn, located at 6520 Lee Street, in Morrow. She explained that members of the general public, and local, state and federal emergency and public safety officials have been invited to attend the event.

“Out of concern for children and the elderly, and what they would do if they were ever caught in a storm, I’ve created a product that people can put on in an emergency, and it will have all of the things they need to be prepared ...,” Atkins said.

She explained that these waterproof vests are designed to hold many of the items the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends, on its www.ready.gov web site, for inclusion in emergency preparedness kits.

There are spaces to keep identification cards, and paperwork that lists any medications to which that person is allergic. That information comes in handy, Atkins said, in cases where emergency responders find a person in a state of unconsciousness after a severe weather event.

The toppers also come with whistles to get the attention of emergency responders after a storm, and pockets that contain some other emergency preparedness tools, such as a flashlight, and a collapsible water bottle. The pockets also have space for people to add additional emergency preparedness equipment, including batteries and a weather radio.

The new emergency preparedness advocate said that, although she will have her P.E.T.s on display at the reception, they are not yet ready for sale. The reception, Atkins said, will be more of an event to piggyback on Georgia’s recent Severe Weather Awareness week, which was observed earlier this month.

“It’s primarily focused on making people aware of what they need to have put together in case of an emergency,” she said. “The key is getting the word out about emergency preparedness. No community can say they are storm proof, and that’s why it’s important for people to be prepared.”

Go online, to www.p-e-t-topper.com, for more information about the Personal Emergency Toppers.