ST. GEORGE – Local crisis groups and emergency preparedness specialists gathered Saturday for the third annual Washington County Community Preparedness Expo. The main emphases were exploring frugal ways to be prepared, and methods for getting youth involved in crisis preparation.
Commercial vendors supplied those in attendance with information and products to build up their 72-hour kits, and access to information that would be helpful in emergency situations. Additionally, representatives from the local CERT team were on hand to demonstrate emergency techniques.
“It becomes real obvious that the importance of individual preparedness is paramount,” Director of Emergency Services David Heaton said. “We encourage all our citizens to take seriously the need to be personally prepared and to be able to sustain themselves and their families until relief arrives.”
Heaton spoke about the warning signs we see in past disasters like the Japan Tsunami, or the New Orleans floods; and how we can take these forewarnings, and apply them to our personal survival plans. Many residents of disaster areas forget what has happened in the past, and start building in areas that are known to be dangerous areas. In Japan, tsunami areas are marked with cairns and monuments to remind and warn residents of the dangers associated with coastal areas.
St. George residents are encouraged to have a 72-hour kit, food storage, emergency resources, and to lead healthy lifestyles that will pay off in everyday life as well as in a crisis situation. Furthermore, speakers warned residents to always choose their lives over their possessions, and to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.
Groups such as Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP), FEMA, and The Weather Channelprovide ways residents can make 72-hour kits on a budget, and lists of what to have in yours. Although different lists vary slightly, the most common supplies include a flashlight, a radio, food and water, a first aid kit, medicine, extra clothes, and other simple supplies. For most people, this can be done with what they already have in their homes. And any level of preparation increases chances of survival in the event of an emergency.
There are also youth programs driven by student leadership, designed to get community members involved early on so they can help their peers be prepared as well. The schools are establishing consistent programs to teach their students proper first aid and crisis planning. They do, however, lack funds to fully put these programs into effect, and are in search for grants to fund a full implementation of emergency programs.
“The public health department might be able to help us next year so that we can broaden that to all fifth graders,” Student Services director Luanne Forrest said. “They then become leaders in their homes, as well as leaders in their school to spread that word.”
It takes funding and community support to keep these programs building; emergency kits for students, AEDs in schools, and other supplies. Leaders encourage donations and support of school programs to perpetuate these measures.