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National Preparedness Month: Plan for All Emergencies

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National Preparedness Month arrives every September, and with it comes the Putnam County Department of Health’s efforts to rally residents to make a plan and build an emergency kit.

The very nature of a hurricane or other weather-related emergency is unpredictability. Unfortunately, the number and cost of weather and climate disasters are increasing in the U.S., according to the Climate.gov, site of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The way to stay ahead of these emergencies is by planning to be ready before they strike.  

“Being prepared is becoming more and more important as time goes on,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “With that challenge comes a newfound focus on preparation and building resilience. We know we cannot completely avoid serious problems. We are sadly reminded of that fact as we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11. But if we work together to build resilience as individuals and as a community, we will endure and rise stronger in the end.” 

Health Commissioner Dr. Michael J. Nesheiwat agreed, pointing to the ongoing health emergency of a different nature.

“We are marking the second year of National Preparedness Month during the evolving COVID pandemic,” he said. “Being prepared during this continuing situation requires layers of prevention, as well as a commitment to adapt individual and community responses as more scientific information becomes available.

“I strongly urge parents and caregivers to prepare now for the eventual authorization of a COVID vaccine for younger children and speak with their pediatricians and other trusted health care providers. That way they can be well informed and feel more comfortable when the time comes.”  

Being informed, not just about COVID and vaccines but also about local and regional disaster possibilities and making an individualized plan and emergency kit with extra masks and sanitizer are key. These tips follow the four weekly themes of National Emergency Preparedness Month 2021.

The first two, “Make a plan and build a kit” bear repeating. “Low cost, no cost preparedness,” for the third week, advises among other things to review and potentially update any insurance needs. Week four spotlights teaching youth about emergency preparedness and planning what to do in case of family separation. Helping them be involved in preparations goes a long way in reassuring them and building their personal resilience. 

As a resource, Ready.gov is the gold standard website for personal preparedness. It covers a multitude of disaster events, from hurricanes and power outages to extreme heat and lightning. It also has dedicated sections on preparing kids for disasters and emergency alerts.  

How government and communities respond to emergencies was changed forever in the aftermath of September 11. In the months following, the Bureau of Emergency Services and the Department of Health formed a county-wide task force to lead future preparedness efforts.

The group continues to evolve and faces future challenges with a broadened scope as the Disaster Preparedness/Community Resilience Task Force. Led by John O’Connor, Putnam County’s director of emergency management from the Bureau of Emergency Services, and Connie Bueti, the public health emergency preparedness coordinator at the health department, the task force is poised to work on its vision of a prepared and resilient Putnam.

In the wake of 9/11, Putnam’s local Medical Reserve Corps was also formed. This volunteer group of medical and non-medical personnel played a large and significant role in Putnam’s COVID pandemic response. 

“Our expanded task force has already capitalized on all the work done in the years after 9/11, growing strong partnerships and conducting our practice drills year after year,” Bueti said. “This laid a strong foundation for our comprehensive COVID response in a multitude of ways.”

“From an emergency services perspective, we have already come far in identifying our particular regional weather-related, natural threats, such as flood- or power-outage-prone areas,” O’Connor said. “Our close proximity to New York City also puts us at risk for intentional threats as well. We can’t completely avoid any of these challenges, so the answer lies in building an infrastructure that can bounce back. It is with this resilience that we can lessen the burden of future problems.”  

For more information, visit www.putnamcountyny.com, or visit the county’s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PutnamHealthNY.  

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