When most people hear the term emergency preparedness the first thing that comes to mind are the big events; earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, large scale grid failures, financial collapse, and the like. However, it is much more localized and much closer to home, in fact, emergencies happen in homes and during family activities across the country everyday and how you respond can make the difference of a family member surviving or escaping serious injury.
In defining emergency preparedness, we must narrow the term to include those unexpected, but life changing events that can happen to each of us today and realize that it is our responsibility to not only prepare ourselves, but those in our families to respond in effective ways to turn what could be a very bad day into a day where we save the life of or significantly help someone we care about.
A couple years ago, the wife, her son and I were having dinner when a simple corn chip almost became the instrument of my death. As I swallowed, the chip became lodged the wrong way closing off my airway. At first, I figured I could work it free, but it soon became clear I was choking. People near by noticed, but they just watched. It was the wife who took action using the training she received in a basic first aid class to dislodge the assailing bit of fried cornmeal. Death by choking on a snack was not how I envisioned going out and it is only because the wife took the time for a three hour course that I am here today.
Parts of our community were devastated over the last several years by massive fires with loss of life, over 600 homes lost, 1000's evacuated with little to no advanced warning from whole neighborhoods for weeks, and lives changed forever. Yet, ask anyone here and few really remember or more importantly took action on the lessons of those events even as they impacted most everyone who lives here. Those lessons faded as quickly as the events.
Here is the truth; no matter how good your communities emergency services are, you and each member of your family are your own first responders. From the time an emergency or accident occurs to the time it takes emergency service personnel to arrive may only be minutes, but what actions you take in those few minutes may determine whether a family member survives. You are responsible to ensure your family is prepared to immediately leave your home with the items they require; meds, important papers, some clothing in the unexpected chance they must leave with little notice and may never be able to come back to what was once there. In those first minutes of an emergency, you are on your own; you are your own first responder.
Take a first aid class and strongly encourage those you care about to as well. First aid procedures change, so even if you think you are trained be sure you are up to date. Pack emergency bags for your family or at the very least make sure everyone knows what to grab in case they are the only ones home and there is little time to get out. Every community has resources available to help everyone prepare. Start with the Red Cross. Do your own research, seek out those who are preparing, get advice, and be ready.
Emergency preparedness isn't just about those big events most people first think about.