Verna Brown’s advice is like an umbrella. When the sun is shining and everyone’s smiling, it’s easy to think “Life is good.”
But if you’re caught outside in a slashing storm, you’ll wish you’d planned ahead. And if you’re caught in a natural disaster, you’ll really wish you’d planned ahead.
Getting you to plan ahead is Brown’s job. She is Washington County’s emergency management coordinator.
“The word ‘disaster’ is misleading,” Brown said. “I like to tell citizens you’re preparing for your average, everyday-type emergencies, even if you’re at home.”
Brown is co-organizer of the first Preparedness in the Park, a community event to encourage citizens of all ages to prepare for trouble — natural disasters, house fires, power blackouts, neighborhood evacuations — all kinds of trouble.
Preparedness in the Park will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, at the ballfields at City Park, off Virginia Avenue in Hagerstown. Admission is free.
Other organizers include Volunteer Washington County and Citizens Corps.
The big draws at the event will be emergency vehicles on display, such as a police helicopter, an ambulance, a fire engine, a hazmat truck and a bomb robot. First responders will let visitors get close and see the vehicles and their equipment.
Additionally, local and county agencies will provide supplies for putting together a family emergency kit.
“The Citizen Corps calls it the Red Bag campaign,” Brown said. “It’s a bag you get together, so even if you had to shelter in place, you grab the bag and it has a flashlight, a radio, a comfort toy for a child, maybe a book or a pack of cards, important papers, one day’s worth of medicine.”
Brown said residents can use these supplies in their homes — “sheltering in place,” as Brown described it — but if they have to leave their home in a sudden emergency, the bag is easy to grab.
The first 100 or so attendees at Preparedness in the Park will get free supplies, Brown said, while they last. She encouraged people who can’t come to the event to assemble their own emergency kit at home.
“When I talk to a group, I ask, ‘How many in this group (have) a preparedness kit?’ and maybe one or two raise their hands,” Brown said. “I say, ‘You all have extra clothing and a flashlight. What you don’t have is organization. Put all this stuff in one spot. Now you have your kit.’”
Assemble your own family emergency kit. The trend is to encourage people to stay in place during most natural disasters, according to Brown.
But if people must leave their homes suddenly, such as during a house fire or neighborhood evacuation, grab the prepacked family emergency kit and seek other shelter.
Here’s what to consider including:
- A flashlight
- A radio
- Copies of important papers
- One day’s worth of medicine; also the family doctor’s name, a list of prescriptions and how often they are taken
- A first aid kit
- Water and nonperishable snack foods for at least one day
- Light sticks — use them at night instead of letting the flashlight batteries run down.
- Some cash, in case there’s a widespread power blackout
- At least one change of clothing; change this seasonally
- Children in the family? Pack a comfort toy or book, diapers or formula
- Pets in the family? Pack a comfort toy, food and any medicines
- Elder members in the family? Pack medicines or other special needs
If you go ...
WHAT: Preparedness in the Park
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10
WHERE: Ballfields, City Park, Hagerstown
COST: Free admission.
CONTACT: Call Bernadette Wagner at 240-329-5282
MORE: Concert in the Garden features a variety of musicians performing from 4 to 6:30. Remembrance in the Park, the annual ceremony to honor first responders and military personnel who died in line of duty, begins at 6:30 p.m. with a procession of emergency vehicles with lights flashing (sirens off) entering City Park under an American flag. A bagpiper will play as emergency responders gather in the gardens.