Are you prepared for a disaster?

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Are you prepared for a disaster?Even as fires burn across the county, state and nation — and storms wreak havoc in Texas and the other gulf states — Kern County is partnering with agencies to educate communities during September, which is National Disaster Preparedness Month.

“There is no place on earth that is not susceptible to disaster,” said Georgianna Armstrong, emergency services manager for the county. Although Kern is particularly vulnerable to fires, floods, wind storms and earthquakes, her office is taking steps to be prepared for any hazard.

“We really don’t know what could happen,” she said. “Even a power outage, if it’s a hot day and the outage lasts for an extended period of time, can be a disaster.

Everything from communication to transportation to water to food and shelter can be impacted by our reliance on the power grid.

“This is something you cannot overstate. Everything revolves around power, so if something happens, what are you going to need?”

Armstrong pointed to disaster preparedness kit lists compiled at ready.gov/build-a-kit.

“The American Red Cross [redcross.org] also goes into great detail about what you might need in an emergency.”

Another critical component of being prepared comes down to staying connected with news and alerts, she said. Residents can subscribe to readykern.com — for free — to get emergency notifications. “One of the most important things in an emergency is getting good information,” she said.

She reported that all too often, as a situation is developing, rumors and misinformation get circulated by social media and other means, which can often work the general population into a frenzy. “You want information that has been vetted by first responders.”

She also recommended that families come up with reunification plans. “If you can’t get back home, what place are you going to go to meet your family?” In conjunction with this, an out-of-town relative should be designated as the contact to coordinate information in case local communication systems go offline.

“Have mom, dad, brother, whoever call Grandma Sue, and make sure everyone has her number,” said Armstrong. “Even if you have called her 1,000 times before, make sure you have the number written down. In the event of a disaster, you might not remember.”

Although landlines are becoming ever rarer, she said, knowing where you can access one in an emergency could be important.

“The other thing you should do, and this sounds boring but it’s really incredibly important, is look at your insurance coverage and make sure you understand what it does and doesn’t include.

“Counting on FEMA to restore everything you have is not a plan you should base your life on. Make sure that you have insurance, or the financial means, to recover from a disastrous event.”

Armstrong said that as many as two-thirds of Houston residents afflicted by the recent hurricane had no flood insurance. “Think about what you would do if all of a sudden your biggest investment was damaged to the point where it might not be usable anymore.”

As the county continues to go through exercises, and even real-life disasters, local agencies make note of lessons learned and apply appropriate changes to their plans.

“We have a really fabulous community,” she said. “It’s just amazing the groups that are standing up, coming together and building on preparedness.”

Ridgecrest in particular has a well-established network of agencies that meet monthly to ensure that appropriate resources can be quickly deployed in an emergency.

Community Emergency Response Team, Police And Citizens Together and other groups — anchored by the Ridgecrest Police Department — are among the key players.

“This is a very committed and dedicated group that has been in place for quite some time. That’s an incredible asset to the Indian Wells Valley, and not everyone has something like that — so kudos to your community,” said Armstrong.

“These are community-minded folks getting together to talk about working hand in hand with first-responders. That’s a big deal.”

Watch future editions of the News Review for a spotlight on our community efforts to stay prepared.

Story First Published: 2017-09-08