Learn how to prepare for an emergency or disaster


The American Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters in the United States each year.  A disaster can be anything from a home fire to large storms, such as hurricanes, that affect a large area.  The agency provides shelter, food and many other services to help when disaster strikes.  And the Red Cross wants you to be prepared for an emergency and it provides representatives that do speaking engagements to groups about disaster and emergency preparation.

Pat O’Neil is a Red Cross volunteer who is the Safe and Well Lead in the Virginia Mountain Territory Mass Care Team.

“We’re trying to do it as much as possible just to get the word out,” says O’Neil.  “Because first of all, it makes it easier for us and it certainly makes it safer and better for people who might be involved in these things, which is basically all of us.”

These Red Cross programs are offered as a free service to any group.

“We are very interested in doing what we call preparedness programs, which are generally pretty short,” says O’Neil.  “We can tailor them to your group. They could be anything from fifteen to twenty minutes to an hour, typically half an hour in good.  We have PowerPoint that we can bring with us and we can talk about these various things in more detail.”

The Red Cross is putting effort into educating people on how to prepare for disasters.  It’s important to know how to care for your family for several days following a disaster.  In the case of very large storms, like Hurricane Katrina, help could take days to arrive.

 “I know that things did change after Katrina,” says O’Neil.  “Every time we have a big something like that we try to learn from it and try to figure out what we could have done better and what we could do to help again, prepare for the next one.  If you believe climate change, which seems like it’s happening, it’s not going to be the last big hurricane. So we need to get prepared for the next one and think about what people can do to help themselves.”

The Red Cross website also has lots of information to help you plan and prepare.

“More and more of us are going to be involved in them, it seems like,” says O’Neil.  “More people and bigger storms and more area, so it is something that people should think about.”

To find a Red Cross representative to speak to your group, go to www.redcross.org.  Click on “Find your local Red Cross”, and then call the chapter to let them know what topics your group would like to learn more about.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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