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September is National Preparedness Month

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With Labor Day being the unofficial end of summer, it is a time for all of us to begin the preparation for the cold and snowy weather soon to come. As we prepare our homes, cars, hunting and fishing gear, we should ask ourselves if we are really prepared for simple or major events that could occur.

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The month of September is National Preparedness Month. This month reminds us that the focus is that while we may not be able to plan for an emergency; we can be prepared for that emergency. It helps to keep us from feeling so helpless in time of emergency or disaster and could keep us safe in the event of a disaster.

The Preparedness Month idea is in its ninth year and is hosted by the Ready Campaign, Citizen Corps and many local agencies. The hope is to encourage households, businesses and communities to prepare for emergencies.

What is emergency preparedness to you? Is it the generator you bought ten years ago and haven’t started for five of those? To some being prepared is having a flashlight in that kitchen junk drawer and what a bonus if the batteries are still good. Then we have others that have “Bug out Bags” and bunkers in the ground.

The State of Minnesota and Cass County has seen a summer of damage from thunderstorms, which remind us that it doesn’t always take a big storm like Hurricane Sandy to cause property damage and disrupt our routines. The past has shown that emergency responders cannot reach everyone immediately after a disaster, so families should have enough food, water, medication, and other necessities, including pet supplies. The general goal should be to have enough of basic supplies to survive without any outside assistance for at least three days. Families should always prepare a communication plan to be able to reunite during an emergency and not rely on cellular phones or other modern technologies that we have become so used to using to assist us. Towers and services can go down and we need to have basic plans in place.

I would also like to emphasize the importance of following the direction and guidance that will be given from local NIXLE Alerts, National Weather Service Alerts, and emergency personnel, even if it means evacuating your home or business. If the decision to evacuate is ever made, it is not made lightly and if you ignore that order, you put yourself and responders in unnecessary danger or risk.

Preparing for any hazard or emergency is pretty simple if you break it down into four simple categories that FEMA suggests.

• Build a supply kit. The kit should include all food, water, and other necessities to be able to keep you and your family sustained for at least three days. It may not be a bad idea to throw a little extra in for that neighbor of yours that is not as prepared as you.

• Make a plan. Where will you and loved ones plan to meet, how will you communicate? If you take a look at the website www.ready.gov, they have made it easy to make a plan.

• Be informed. That means understand what emergencies or hazards you may see and plan for them. Plan for the hazards we deal with - tornados, winter blizzards, etc.

• The final part of this program is to get involved, take care of your family and then be prepared to help others. There are many volunteer programs that are always looking for good help, find the one that is of interest to you. The Sheriff’s Office is in the process of starting a new volunteer opportunity for teens, the program is called TEEN CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). If you have a teen or know one that may be interested, please give our Emergency Management Office a call at 218-547-7437 to get them signed up.

The goal of this month is not to scare people, but to help remind us to take responsibility for ourselves and our families in time of disaster and being prepared and ready to do so. It takes each and every one of us, along with our community, county and state. This year, National Preparedness Month is to get us all to turn awareness into action. Let’s get each individual and community nationwide to make a plan, build that kit and get involved.

If you are not signed up for NIXLE Alerts please go to WWW.nixle.com or on our website at www.casssheriff.com and sign up to receive text message and e-mail alerts from the Sheriff’s Office.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, contact me: email: tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us, phone: 218-547-1424 or 1-800-450-2677. By mail: Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN 56484.

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