What if the Bridge you Plan to Cross is Washed Out?

September is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Preparedness Month, a time when people across the U.S. are reminded to be prepared for disasters and emergencies. Whenever I hear “be prepared,” I think of the Boy Scouts of America. When Robert Baden-Powell established and defined this motto for the Scouts, he said, “You are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” Later, when he was asked, “Prepared for what?” his answer was short and clear: “For anything.”

The “be prepared” credo has rung true for the Boy Scouts for well over a century. It should also ring true for anyone advocating for, and moving toward, preparedness in the more modern sense. In fact, always being in a state of readiness, including in mind and body, is at the heart of National Preparedness Month. And so does our duty to be prepared for disasters that may strike. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our families and neighbors to be ready to act in an emergency.

This year, National Prepared Month’s theme is: Disasters Happen. Be Prepared. Learn How. How many times have we said, “I’ll cross that bridge when we get there?” While this may be OK for, say, running out of ice at a family picnic, this attitude is not appropriate when it comes to emergencies brought about by hurricanes, snow storms, drought, fire, tornadoes and the like.

It’s a good start to know that if a hurricane is coming, you’ll pack up the kids and go stay with an out of town relative. But National Preparedness Month pushes us to think beyond the obvious. What if the roads are impassable? Do you have enough food, water and equipment to hunker down in your own house? Do you have basic medical knowledge and first-aid gear in case someone gets ill or injured? Do you know how to shut off water and gas lines?

The last part of the theme, “Learn How,” is also critical. You can’t learn CPR as the wildfires are closing in on your home. If a tornado destroys the power lines, you won’t have internet service to Google how to determine if rain water is safe to drink. These are just two examples to illustrate the value in not just having a plan, but also in learning how to operate should you need to execute that plan—or come up with a different plan.

This “Make a Plan” checklist from the Department of Homeland Security is a great place to get started on a viable and vital preparedness program. I encourage everyone to read it and then take steps that can keep all those you love save during a disaster.