Disaster preparedness is not seasonal but all year round

By FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell

November 30 marks the official end of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which produced 21 named storms, making it the third most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. With climate change, the novelty of breaking records has lost its weight; we have become numb to it, because we do it every year.

Hurricanes occur before and after traditional seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific; fire seasons in the West are now considered fire years, and flooding is impacting communities that were not prone to flooding before. As climate change leads to more frequent and widespread weather events, it’s more important than ever to prepare.

The 2020 FEMA National Household Survey found that only 48% of U.S. households have disaster preparedness plans. This statistic underlines a belief common by many; that their families and homes are safe from the impacts of a disaster and therefore do not make any plans until it is too late. However, the fact is that every community, every neighborhood is vulnerable to the elements. So, at the end of the day, how you prepare for a disaster today can dramatically influence your ability to recover tomorrow.

Last year I traveled across the country and observed flooded streets and lots of debris in places like LaFourche, Terrebonne and Saint-Charles Parish, I listened to the heartbreaking stories of families who have everything lost due to forest fires and saw the remains of houses torn apart by tornadoes. which hit New Jersey as Hurricane Ida approached. I was saddened to see the devastation and it reinforced my determination that emergency preparedness cannot just be seasonal and must be a year round activity.

These changes in weather conditions require changes in our behavior. Waiting moments before a disaster strikes is too late, as evidenced by long lines at gas stations, empty supermarket shelves and miles of congested traffic before a storm. Preparations don’t have to be expensive or time consuming, and small efforts can save lives. I urge you to consider taking these small steps:

  • Make a plan –Your family may not be together in a disaster, so it’s important to know what types of disasters might affect your area. Know how you will contact each other and reconnect if you are separated. Establish a family meeting place that is familiar and easy to find.
  • Know your escape route – Get used to alternative routes and other means of transportation outside your area.
  • Track Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) –These are short emergency messages sent by alert authorities to your mobile device. Check your mobile device settings to make sure you are receiving emergency alert messages.

Ready.gov offers a suite of educational tools and resources to help you create a disaster kit, create a family communication plan, and find other steps you can take to prepare. Now is the time to act while you have the time and the clarity of mind to assemble the necessary information, resources, and supplies.

Individual preparedness is only part of disaster preparedness. FEMA will continue to work in partnership with communities and state agencies to support mitigation activities and ensure communities are empowered to better withstand future catastrophic weather events. We will also continue to work in partnership with local communities to set up shelters; disseminate communications that represent people who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing; translate vital emergency information into languages ​​accessible to all Americans; and providing individual and public assistance to those in need of assistance after a disaster.

Our world is changing. Weather events that were unfathomable 20 years ago are the new normal and an unprecedented global pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives. The messages of preparation and protection are everywhere, and it is easy to get overwhelmed by all that we need to do.

So my request is as follows: do a little thing today. Take an action that helps your preparation and encourage others to do the same.

Disasters do not wait. Make your plan today.