MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS - 10/2/2012) -- "I was riding on a bus watching kids walking home from school when the earthquake hit us," Staff Sgt. Alicia McQuay, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management NCO in charge, reminisces. "One minute, everything's normal, the next minute kids are running around screaming and I'm wondering, what is going on."
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Adams, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management apprentice, teaches his two daughters how to dial their home number and the emergency number, 911 at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 15, 2012. Teaching children what to do during any emergency is part of the preparation process. U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson
It was this sort of story that designated September as the National Preparedness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness on importance of disaster awareness. Stories like this one recounting the March 11, 2011, earthquake caused the Adams family to take action when they found themselves on Japanese soil 11 months after the event.
As a husband and father of two little girls, Airman 1st Class Michael Adams, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management apprentice, made it his duty to have his family prepared for any natural disaster that may come their way.
Since he worked in the Emergency Management department, he was already a step ahead of the game.
He knew about the Federal Emergency Management Agency and their websites; http://www.fema.gov/ and http://www.ready.gov/. He knew that his co-workers were constantly updating their Emergency Management Facebook page; http://www.facebook.com/#!/MisawaEmergencyManagement, with weather warnings, 'How To' guides and 'Q' s and A' s'. He even knew the Red Cross provided people with programs and classes the EM department didn't have the manning to hold.
The challenge for him was making sure his family knew and understood these things. Adams followed the five easy steps to get his family as prepared as he was.
Step 1: Know the hazards
Being in the military can mean moving around and adapting to different environments. However, adapting to the environment doesn't just mean growing accustomed to the local culture, but becoming familiar with the potential for natural disasters in the local area as well.
For example, earthquakes are a big thing in Misawa, while in Wisconsin, they're practically non-existent.
"Educating yourself is the first step to protecting yourself," said McQuay.
Step 2: Plan for natural disasters
Once educated, the next step is to apply this knowledge and come up with a plan to be prepared for any natural disaster. According to FEMA preparedness pamphlets distributed by the EM department and the Red Cross, depending on the circumstances of the situation the most important decision to make is whether to stay put or evacuate.
By using common sense and the information provided by these two organizations, coming up with a plan for both scenarios will make ensuring everyone's safety probable.
Don't forget, when coming up with a plan, to stay tuned to your local resources, such as the Commanders Access Channel and the American Forces Network. During a disaster, they may ask that you stay in the immediate vicinity or evacuate to a pre-determined area. Should you need to evacuate, it is important to be familiar with the local area, said McQuay.
When it comes to pets, speak to the local veterinarian for local policies during these situations.
Step 3: Prepare for the disaster
By visiting your local EM and Red Cross offices and FEMA websites, you will find it pretty easy to build a disaster supply kit and develop an emergency plan.
Step 4: Build an emergency kit
The basic supply kit should consist of:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to make a shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phones and chargers, preferably the ones that take batteries
- Unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula or diapers and important family documents
Step 5: Practice your plan
The last step is to practice your emergency plan. This is especially important for families with small children. Although children may listen to their parents' directions during an emergency situation, they may not actually understand what is being said to them. This can easily put the child at risk of panicking and not knowing what to do when the time comes for him or her to act, said McQuay.
The EM NCO suggests having your child go through emergency drills and actually walking down stairs and waiting patiently at the playground for an adult. This way the child has a better chance of retaining the information.
"Remember," said McQuay. "When a disaster happens it's not going to be when you want it to happen, but when you least expect it."
Adams agrees with McQuay. That's why, to better protect his wife, two little girls and the family bunny named Strawberry Shortcake, he's built two emergency kits.
"I've got one in the house and one in the car," Adams boasts.
To some people, it may seem a bit much and unnecessary. But to Adams, nothing is more important than setting his family up for success and survival.
With his youngest daughter in his arms and his oldest playing at his feet, he adds, "Besides, it's a big boost of morale being prepared for something this unpredictable. With my family taken care of, my wife and I don't have to carry unnecessary burdens and I can focus on my job."
By USAF Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson
Air Force News Service
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