By Senator Susan Collins
They say April showers bring May flowers. But a deluge in June doesn’t leave anything behind except a big mess to clean up.
Recent storms dumped more than eight inches of rain across parts of our state. Small streams quickly became rushing rivers, and big rivers like the Androscoggin and the Kennebec roared, spilling their banks in some areas. While crews are still assessing the damage, fortunately, it appears to be relatively minor in most communities.
June 1 marked the official start of the 2012 hurricane season. As the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I have joined the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help promote National Hurricane Preparedness Week.
While severe hurricanes are rare in Maine, unexpected storms like this most recent one are a stark reminder that we always need to be prepared for severe weather whenever—and wherever—it might strike.
During the month of June, FEMA and NOAA are working together to urge all Americans to know your risk. Think about how a hurricane, or heavy rain, might affect where you live and work, and how the weather could affect you and your family.
Do you live in an area that’s prone to flooding? Have you thought about how and where you would evacuate if you were instructed to by your local emergency management officials? When you understand your risk, you are more likely to know how to prepare.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and devastating storms like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, reinforced many of the lessons of preparedness and led to a law that I coauthored along with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to strengthen our nation’s capacity to respond to natural disasters, as well as terrorist attacks.
The government has established protocols that will help our country through natural disasters, disease pandemics, catastrophic accidents or vicious acts of terrorism. And your household should have them too. We need all Americans to learn how best to respond to an emergency, whatever form it may take.
Don’t wait for something to happen to create a response plan. As we enter the summer months, now is a good time to decide what you and your family would do in case of an emergency. All members of your family might not be together when disaster strikes—where would you meet? Parents could be at work and children at a friend’s house, for instance. Consider how you would contact one another.
Different circumstances and emergencies require an important first decision. Do you stay inside or evacuate? Family members should discuss both possibilities. You should understand and plan to get out or shelter in place, and listen to the advice of experts. In some cases, staying put is the safest course, while in other disasters, evacuation is essential.
The importance of planning cannot be underestimated. Make an emergency kit for your home. It should include: water, one gallon per person, per day for at least three days; a three-day supply of non-perishable food; a battery-operated or hand-crank radio; flashlight and extra batteries; first aid supplies; a whistle to signal for help; moist towelettes, garbage bags and ties; a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities; a can opener; local maps; cell phone with charger.
Don’t forget your medications and glasses. If you have an infant, make sure all the proper supplies are in place. If you have a pet, make sure those supplies are included as well.
Knowledge is power, so keep abreast of the news and learn about area-specific emergencies that could happen where you live. Contact your local emergency management teams, which have established emergency plans for natural disasters. More helpful information and ideas can be found at www.ready.gov.
Finally, be a good neighbor. Create the blueprint to care for your loved ones but also reach out to neighbors, colleagues, friends and strangers. Every hand will be a helping hand in a crisis.
Learn how to be prepared so that we are ready and our families and our communities are safe.