By Denny Barney
In recent weeks, our country has endured a seemingly endless string of emergencies. We know Harvey, Irma and Maria by name, and we’ve seen the destruction left in their wake. We have heard about North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing and have mourned the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, one that targeted music lovers in a public square.
We watch all of this unfold and sometimes wonder what we can do.
In Maricopa County, the Department of Emergency Management plans and practices year-round to ensure our county and municipal response agencies are prepared to respond to a variety of natural and man-made emergency situations. But there is nothing that can take the place of personal readiness. Are you ready?
Personal preparedness is as simple as having a plan, having a home emergency supply kit or being ready to leave home with a “go” bag if needed. Talk with your family about a variety of emergency scenarios and come up with a plan. Take the time to identify exits in your home depending on the emergency. Come up with a meeting place should you be separated. Memorize the phone number of a relative in case you are unable to access your contacts on a cell phone. Have a go bag with the essentials ready for each family member (including one for pets) in the event you have to leave your home at a moment’s notice.
You’ll also want to have a home emergency kit including food, water, flashlight, etc. in the event you have to “shelter in place” or stay in your home during a power failure or other event. Check your go bag and emergency kit items periodically to make sure food has not expired, items are still functional and clothing still fits. And be sure to review and test your emergency plan annually. You can visit ready.maricopa.gov for information on putting together a family plan and emergency kit, and to sign up for email updates.
In May 2017, the county conducted a survey to determine how prepared our community is for a disaster. Of the 4,700 that responded to the survey, 56 percent said they have family preparedness plans; 44 percent have go bags for times they would need to leave home quickly; and 32 percent, have emergency kits for when they would need to shelter at home. MCDEM conducts this survey each year, and – in an effort to increase these percentages – will continue to promote personal and family preparedness at local community outreach events throughout the year.
Maricopa County is fortunate to be low-risk for natural disasters. However, MCDEM provides community-wide education and planning for the residents of Maricopa County in the event of a major emergency including wildfires, dust storms, flooding, hazardous materials or acts of terrorism. During emergencies or disasters, the county provides notifications and updates to the public through the Community Emergency Notification System. CENS is a system designed to rapidly notify an affected area of an emergency by sending a recorded message through the telephone system using the 911 database. Through CENS, the county is currently able to provide real-time notifications to just over 30,000 county residents; an increase of almost 5,000 subscribers since January. Do you want to sign up? To receive emergency alerts on your cell phone, register it at ready.maricopa.gov. You can also receive preparedness and emergency updates from MCDEM’s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Nextdoor.
You never know when an emergency will happen. So be smart, proactive and practiced. It’s good to be prepared.
Denny Barney is a Gilbert resident and the Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.