Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker proclaimed September “Emergency Preparedness Month” and urged residents to plan ahead in the event disaster strike.
The remnants of Hurricane Hermine swirling in the ocean off the south coast of Massachusetts served as a reminder that the state is susceptible to all types of natural disasters including hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and earthquakes. There are other dangers people need to prepare for including power outages, water supply problems, and terrorism.
At a news conference Tuesday, officials in Springfield stressed the theme: “Don’t wait, plan today.”
"Springfield knows all too well natural and man-made disasters," said Mayor Domenic Sarno as he recalled how the city was hit by three natural disasters in 2011. There was a tornado, Tropical Storm Irene, and a powerful October snowstorm that left much of the city without power for a week. In 2012, downtown Springfield was rocked by a natural gas explosion.
" I hope we never have to go through it again, but it is better to be prepared," said Sarno. " Plan ahead of time and that way we are all better off if something were to occur."
No one in Springfield died in any of the series of calamities. Officials say the point of disaster preparedness is to reduce casualties, limit damage to property, reduce the economic impact, and speed up recovery.
Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One said the organization learned firsthand the importance of disaster preparedness after one of its daycare centers was hit by the 2011 tornado and a second one was destroyed by the gas explosion a year later.
" And we are prepared on all levels for any type of disaster including rehearsing lockdowns with the police department in the event terrorism does befall us," said Kagan.
Officials offered a number of tips including enabling localized emergency alerts on mobile devices, preparing family communication and evacuation plans, and stocking kits with supplies that could sustain a family for up to three days. Business owners were urged to have continuity plans.
Springfield Health Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said neighbors should watch out for each other’s well-being.
"It is really important that if you don't see someone for a couple of days that you check in on them," she said.
Springfield Emergency Preparedness Director Bob Hassett warned that the city will have to prepare for increasingly severe storms as a result of climate change.
"Urban areas are already feeling the devastating consequences including drought, intense storms, more powerful hurricanes and heat waves. Climate change poses an imminent and lasting threat to our safety," he said.
Officials are going to deliver the emergency preparedness message during a series of events and promotions this month.