An emergency can be anything from a weather-related event to an interruption of utility company service, from a terrorist attack to a major industrial accident. The most important thing to remember in any emergency — and, we don’t mean to suggest it’s an easy thing to do — is to try and remain calm so you can assess the situation rationally and react safely and appropriately.
Another important thing to remember is that very often initial news media reports may be overstated, overly dramatized or otherwise grossly inaccurate. All too often, broadcast reporters tend to sacrifice truth and accuracy in their rush to be the first to cover a catastrophic event. It’s not that they intentionally get it wrong, but their desire for see-it-now airtime can result in half-truths and details that are mostly speculative conjecture — all of which can make a situation appear more extreme than it really is. Rumors are an even less believable source of information. Whenever possible, try not to base your decisions or actions on information circulating through unofficial or unsubstantiated circumstances.
Having said all of that, what can you do to prepare you and your family for major emergencies? First, determine the nature and severity of the situation. Community emergencies can be divided into four types: temporary inconveniences (power is lost but is expected to be restored within “x” hours), major disruptions (train wrecks, multi-vehicle expressway accidents, bridge collapses, plane crashes, plant explosions), regional disasters (usually weather events), or major catastrophes (any event severe enough to bring the whole nation to a standstill — such as 9/11).
To be prepared, you and your family need to discuss and develop detailed “plans” that take into account as many variables as possible. The articles included in this issue should provide enough guidance to help you be prepared for a wide variety of emergency situations.