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"Don't Wait. Communicate."

September 8, 2015
A bird's eye view of a hurricane cloud formation.

September is National Preparedness Month, a perfect time for disaster communication planning among families, companies and communities. Nationwide, organizations are encouraging us all, “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.” It’s a message that I hope many Georgians will take to heart. 

As the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security, I’m particularly aware of how vital a good communications plan is. Communicating in the middle of an emergency can be far more challenging than you might think, so it’s critical that you have a plan for reconnecting with family members if you happen to be separated when disaster strikes. Most of us know that it’s important to stock extra food, water and other emergency supplies, but we often assume that reconnecting with family members will be as simple as picking up the phone and giving them a call. 

Unfortunately, it might not be that easy. Cell networks may be overwhelmed, making it difficult to place calls. Roads may be impassable, making it impossible to get into or out of your neighborhood. If an emergency happens while you’re not with your family, reconnecting everyone could be more difficult than you think. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan before disaster strikes. Here are a few questions to consider as you begin formulating a plan for your family:

  • Is my emergency contact list up to date? 
  • Does my family know how to get in touch with each other if we are not all together?
  • Do I have a way to charge my cell phone when the power is out?
  • Does my family have a main person all family members know to contact?
  • Who’s my out-of-state contact in the event of a major disaster or evacuation?
  • Do I have a plan for my pets?
  • Are senior family members or family members with access and functional needs prepared for emergencies?

There is a lot to consider, but GEMA/HS’s Ready Georgia campaign has resources to make it easier. Start by creating a Ready profile. This tool — available on our website and via our mobile app — helps you create a family communications plan and will also generate a customized list of items to keep in your Ready kit.  

Throughout September, Ready Georgia will be sharing resources, recommendations and recent news to promote emergency preparedness on our website and through social media. Beginning today we are inviting all Georgians to vote in the No Power? No Problem! Recipe Contest. Some of Georgia’s best chefs, including Hugh Acheson and Kevin Gillespie, have created delicious recipes that call for only nonperishable ingredients, manual tools and alternative heating sources. We need your help to pick the best one, and each time you vote you are entered to win prize packages featuring Ready kits and restaurant gift cards. Like us on Facebook to get all the details and to place your first vote. 

I also encourage you to follow @GeorgiaEMA and use the hashtag #NatlPrep to interact with us, telling us how you’re making the most of National Preparedness Month. 

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About the Author 

Jim Butterworth was appointed Director of Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security by Governor Nathan Deal in January 2015. In this position, he serves as the Homeland Security Advisor to the Governor and is responsible for coordinating the state’s preparedness, response and recovery from natural disasters and acts of terrorism. Prior to his appointment as GEMA/HS Director, Mr. Butterworth served 4 years as the Adjutant General of Georgia overseeing the Georgia Department of Defense.

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