Weekly Columns

The worst of Mother Nature brings out the best of the human spirit. We witnessed the bravery and heroism of first responders, emergency officials and volunteers who saved the lives of Texans trapped by Hurricane Harvey’s devastating flooding. Arkansans mobilized efforts to assist our neighbors in need. The Arkansas National Guard responded to the disaster, providing relief to Texas as individuals, businesses and organizations across the state are also lending a hand to those affected by the hurricane.

This is a reminder of how vulnerable we are to natural disasters. As Arkansans, we’ve experienced the damaging impact of natural disasters to our homes, communities and state. When a natural disaster hits, the team at Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) puts its plans into action.

ADEM prepares for disaster situations, not only by devising plans on paper, but by practicing its response. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see its earthquake preparedness exercise and how the team implements its strategy and works with other agencies to help Arkansans in this type of disaster. Practicing emergency response allows ADEM to continue improving its plan and lets the folks on the team familiarize themselves with their role should a disaster strike. 

Just as emergency management professionals prepare for disasters, it’s important for us all to make a plan for emergency situations. As a co-chair of National Preparedness Month, I am committed to encouraging and supporting efforts to be better prepared.

National Preparedness Month serves as a reminder that we all play a role in preparing for emergencies. This is a shared responsibility that extends beyond federal, state and local governments.

Planning ahead is key to minimizing the impacts of disasters to our families, communities and nation. The federal government has an excellent resource to advise Americans on emergency preparedness.  

Launched in 2003, Ready.gov was designed to educate and empower the public to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies. Over a decade later, this public awareness campaign remains an important tool in promoting preparedness for natural and man-made disasters.

Developing and practicing an emergency plan at home is one of the four keys Ready.gov asks the public to undertake. Our children have routine drills for emergencies at school so it makes sense to continue that preparation in our homes. National Preparedness Day, September 15, is a fitting time to develop and practice emergency plans at home. Preparation can make a big difference when a disaster strikes.

The campaign also encourages Americans to stay informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and the appropriate responses, build an emergency supply kit and get involved in your community by taking action to prepare for emergencies.

Ready.gov is full of helpful information on how to accomplish these four tasks, including training courses for how to provide aid before first responders arrive, what to stock in a disaster supply, where to find a mass care shelter and much more. 

As our friends in Texas cope with the devastation from the record-setting storm Harvey, Floridians are recovering from Hurricane Irma. Congress moved quickly to pass initial aid for Hurricane Harvey recovery and Hurricane Irma preparedness. My colleagues and I stand ready to address these and other emergencies to the extent that the federal government can, but much of our ability to withstand any disaster starts at home. By making advanced plans, we all can be ready for the unexpected.