September is coined National Preparedness Month (NPM) and this year’s theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead — You Can” via the Ready Campaign. This is a striking statement if you consider that disasters can strike at any time without warning. Natural and manmade disasters are common throughout the world and extremely personal for those impacted. The devastation can cause a multitude of cascading events for individuals both short and long-term.

We can all take action to prepare! We are all able to help first responders in our community by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes where we live, work, and visit. The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, school, places of worship, and beyond.

Do you know at least two ways out of your community? Where will you meet family after evacuation? Where will you stay and how will you contact each other? Where will your pets stay?

Take appropriate steps in planning ahead before disaster strikes. Communicating with loved ones will be difficult. Having a plan and being prepared will help reduce stress. You can plan to lessen the impact of disaster by taking a preparedness inventory of your plans and supplies and determine where the potential for further actions could benefit. Once you’ve made a determination of what gaps exist in your planning and basic emergency supplies create two lists — one list should include actions needed, and the other should include basic supplies needed.

Here are some examples of actions you can take to get prepared:

• Create a disaster supplies kit. Your kit is essential in providing you with basic needs if you need to leave the comfort of your home unexpectedly. It should contain items for basic needs — at minimum including food, water, shelter, a first aid kit, hygiene supplies, extra clothing and bedding, copies of critical documents, medication if taking and other medical needs items. Check out Ready.gov to learn more.

• Sign up for alerts and warnings by opting-in to Citizen Alert.

• Make an emergency plan and practice your plan.

• Learn skills you need to help yourself and others until help can arrive; take the free Ashland CERT training (AshlandCERT.org).

• Maintain emergency savings for use in case of an emergency.

• Participate in an emergency drill.

• Take a CPR training course (Ashland.or.us/CPR).

• Know how to access community resources (e.g., shelters, food banks).

• Check on your neighbors. Ashland’s Map Your Neighborhood program can help (Ashland.or.us/MYN).

• Create a checklist to assist you in following the steps to achieve preparedness.

When you are forced to leave your home, Be Ready. Always have your disaster supplies kit stocked and ready for use. Implement your plan just as you’ve practiced in the past during non-disaster situations. Stay calm. Be aware of your surroundings such as downed power lines, fallen objects, pedestrians and traffic, and spills or other potential hazards.

Be sure to include your pets and livestock, if you have any, in your planning process. Be sure every animal has durable and visible identification. Consider implanting microchips to reassure reunification should you get separated. Do not overlook needing additional water, food, and medications for pets. Many shelters do not allow pets or livestock.

—Terri Eubanks is the Ashland Fire & Rescue Community Preparedness Coordinator. Email her at terri.eubanks@ashland.or.us.