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National Preparedness Month 2011: A Time to Remember. A Time to Prepare.

September is National Preparedness Month. Emergency preparedness is one of those topics that is easily pushed to the back-burner, but in light of recent natural disasters around the country, National Preparedness Month reminds us how important emergency preparedness is. In 2011 natural disasters have become almost commonplace: Most recently, the east coast was shaken up by Hurricane Irene and an unusual 5.8 earthquake. In late spring, tornadoes raged in the Midwest. Earlier this year, a massive 9.0 earthquake rocked Japan and its resulting tsunami was felt as far as California. And this September marks the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Luckily, the Pacific Southwest Region has been able to avoid many of these disasters, but we are especially vulnerable to earthquakes, flash floods, hurricanes, monsoons, thunderstorms, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and wildfires. The theme for this year’s National Preparedness Month is “A Time to Remember. A Time to Prepare.” This September, let us remember all of these events and prepare ourselves, both personally and professionally, for any future disasters or emergencies.

Personal Preparedness

Example of an American Red Cross Emergency Preparedness KitFederal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Ready.gov educates and empowers Americans to prepare and respond to emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. During an emergency, local officials and relief workers will not be able to reach everyone immediately. It is recommended that everyone should have an emergency supply kit for their home, work, and car, with enough supplies to last you for three days. Some recommended items to include in a basic emergency supply kit:

  • 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 and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Additional lists are available for creating emergency supply kits for babies, children, older adults, people with disabilities, and pets. Ready.gov also provides guidelines on how to create family emergency plans and overviews of disaster types. Ready.gov is available in English, Spanish (as Listo.gov), and eleven other languages. Ready.gov also provides a list of community and state emergency services for Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, America Samoa, Guam, and Northern Mariana Islands.

MedlinePlus is a great source for personal disaster and emergency information. MedlinePlus organizes publications produced by the NIH Institutes and other Federal Government organizations to help you find appropriate, authoritative health information. Before a disaster strikes, the MedlinePlus Disaster Preparation and Recovery topic page is a key resource to review. Since MedlinePlus focuses on health information, it has extensive information on how to cope with emotional stress caused by these events, such as coping with disasters (especially for children) and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as first aid for physical ailments.

Professional Preparedness

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and the Medical Library Association (MLA) provides a wealth of information for librarian and information professional emergency preparedness.

Image of Christchurch Central Library in New Zealand after Earthquake. Image courtesy of Christchurch City LibrariesNN/LM has developed and is overseeing an emergency preparedness and response plan to help Network members maintain their information services in the event of a disaster. Prior to an emergency, develop and maintain a disaster plan using the NN/LM Emergency Preparedness and Response Toolkit. We recommend you start by creating a Pocket Response Plan and develop a comprehensive plan as time permits. The 10-Step Approach to Service Continuity Planning class materials are available online and can be helpful for your planning process. After an emergency, the PSRML can easily be reached using the toll-free NN/LM Emergency Assistance Number, 1-800-DEV-ROKS (when calling within the region). The NN/LM PSR’s Emergency Preparedness and Response webpage contains additional region-specific information.

NLM Specialized Information Services’ (SIS) Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) collects, organizes, and disseminates health information resources and informatics research related to disasters of natural, accidental, or deliberate origin. After an emergency, the NLM Emergency Access Initiative provides temporary free access to full text articles from major biomedicine titles to healthcare professionals, librarians, and the public affected by disasters. DIMRC also develops innovative products and services to serve emergency responders and managers:

Launched earlier this year, the National Library of Medicine’s multimedia emergency response website contains explanatory text and video clips that will demonstrate salvage and recovery procedures for historic and general collection materials affected by water. It provides short-term and long-term procedures for recovering a variety of materials, including books and bound materials, photographic materials, and microform. The website is also available in a mobile format for portable use after an emergency.

Lastly, the Medical Library Association (MLA) is currently developing a Disaster Information Specialization Program. This program is designed to allow participants the opportunity to expand their roles by offering more specialized training in providing access to information in times of disaster and emergency. The program has two levels of the specialization: The first level of the specialization is for those who desire a basic familiarity with disaster information resources; and the second level is for those who wish to gain additional training.

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