Each September, National Preparedness Month encourages and promotes family and community disaster and emergency planning. It’s an opportunity to remind us that we all must prepare ourselves and our families for when an emergency happens. The 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”

The goal of Preparedness Month is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, and school. All individuals should take time to learn lifesaving skills such as CPR and first aid, and check insurance policies and coverage for the hazards you may face, such as flood, wildfire, winter storm, earthquakes, and volcanic eruption. Make sure to consider the costs associated with disasters and save for an emergency. Also, know how to take practical safety steps like shutting off water and gas.

The current pandemic, the recent cold storage fire in Downtown Puyallup, and the wildfires of this and the past few years have reminded us of the importance of preparing for disasters. Often, you will be the first to take action after a disaster strikes and before first responders arrive, so it is important to prepare in advance to help yourself and your community.

The website www.ready.gov is an excellent tool for preparedness information with information and links to additional resources. There you’ll find information on how to make a disaster or emergency plan and how to make your own emergency kit or “go bag.”

Understanding evacuation levels and alert systems

It’s important to understand the different evacuation levels to properly react to emergencies. Pierce County uses a three-level system for alerting residents of a danger to their home.

LEVEL 1 means BE READY. Residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area and monitor local media outlets for information. Residents with special considerations, such as health or mobility issues, or those with animals/pets, should take note and begin making arrangements to evacuate.

LEVEL 2 means GET SET. This level indicates there is significant danger to your area and residents should either voluntarily relocate to family or friends outside of the affected area, or to a shelter location announced through local law enforcement and public media. If choosing to remain, be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.

LEVEL 3 means GO! Danger to your area is current or imminent and you should leave immediately. Listen to local media and watch for emergency personnel who may be coming by to give further instructions regarding the evacuation.

Pierce County officials will use the Pierce County ALERT system to send residents of evacuation levels and emergency notifications.

Pierce County ALERT is a free service that allows you to sign up and receive notifications about emergencies that may affect the locations you care about. This service allows fire, police and other agencies dealing with emergency response to send out accurate and up-to-date information that they feel residents should be informed on.

Weekly Themes for 2021: Each week in September, the campaign will focus on a different aspect of preparedness for individuals, families and communities.

Week 1 September 1-4: Make A Plan

Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Your disaster/emergency preparedness plan should answer the following questions:

  • How will I received emergency alerts and warnings? (hint: sign up for Pierce County ALERT)
  • What is my shelter plan?
  • What is my evacuation route? (plan for evacuation from home, school & work)
  • What is my family/household communication plan?
  • Do I need to update my emergency preparedness kit?

Click here to create your family emergency communication plan.

Week 2 September 5-11: Build A Kit

Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home.  Don’t forget to consider the unique needs each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. Basic Supplies include:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Click here to view a full list of emergency kit supplies.

Week 3 September 12-18: Low-Cost, No-Cost Preparedness

Limit the impacts that disasters have on you and your family.  Know the risk of disasters in your area. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards.  Check your insurance coverage to make sure it is up-to-date.

Follow these tips for building a budget-friendly preparedness kit:

  • Keep your “go bag” simple. Stock up on the basics and skip some of the comfort items.
  • Buy canned and dry goods when they are on sale (make sure to check the shelf life, some items may expire after 3-6 years).
  • Reuse items you already have. Fill up and reuse plastic water bottles, milk jugs and store them for an emergency.
  • Buy personal care items in bulk, and skip brand names.
  • Build your kit over time. Make it a goal to add to your disaster preparedness kit once a month.

Click here for more budget-friendly preparedness tips.

Week 4 September 19-25: Teach Youth About Preparedness

Talk to your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved. Introduce your kids to disaster preparedness in a fun, non-scary way. Visit www.ready.gov/kids to access games that will teach your kids about staying safe and allow them to practice preparing for a disaster!