Bob Ledford wants people to be prepared. Every month, Ledford writes a "disaster article" for his church, Wesley United Methodist, encouraging churchgoers to prepare in case of an emergency event. But sometimes he feels as if people aren’t listening.
"The mindset is, ‘It won’t ever happen to me,’" said Ledford. "Until it does. Then people have a change of heart."
Emergency events don’t just mean terrorist attacks, fires or hurricanes, said Roy Shrout, assistant coordinator at the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management. Everyday emergency events include snowstorms, power outages or long-term traffic backups, he said.
"The purpose of (emergency) kits is not always to prepare for a big disaster, it’s to prepare for everyday things," he said. "If you’re stuck in the car on I-95 and there’s a backup, it’s nice to have a couple candy bars."
Shrout was on hand at Kilmer Middle School Thursday, Aug. 11, training faith community leaders to teach emergency preparedness to their congregations. A joint project of the Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council, the Department of Systems Management for Human Services Community Interfaith Liaison Office, Faith Communities in Action, the Emergency Management Office, the American Red Cross and the Department of Family Services, Thursday night's session was one of several designed to promote awareness for emergency preparation.
"The whole idea is to get communities prepared for emergencies," said Jesse Viles, community outreach coordinator for the Red Cross. "You have to motivate people. You have to tell them and show them that they need (an emergency kit)."
ACCORDING TO the Red Cross, 700,000 disasters occur each year, said Viles. The most common emergencies in Fairfax County are fires caused by unattended candles, and second are winter storms, said Shrout.
The Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council, founded in 2003, began working with faith communities in order to make inroads to the larger community, said Merrily Pierce of the Citizen Corps. The ultimate goal, she said, is for everyone in Fairfax County to be ready and to have a home emergency kit.
Most of the items needed for an emergency kit, said Viles, people have at home (see sidebar). A kit should be stored in a safe, central area in the home, away from windows, she said. Every six months, food and water in the kit should be rotated in order to keep them fresh.
Along with a kit at home and in the car, said Viles, people should know what to do in case of an emergency. This includes 911 and emergency information numbers as well as numbers for utilities, schools and doctors.
In Fairfax County, the emergency information line is 703-817-7771 (TTY 711). People can also subscribe cell phones, e-mail addresses and pagers to the Community Emergency Alert Network by accessing www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cean.
"We're hoping by September or October, lots of people will have participated in making kits for themselves and their neighbors," said Pierce.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for people in the ministry," said Viles. "You have to think of yourself not as a liability, but as someone who can help."
For Ledford, this means continuing to write articles about being ready in case of disaster for the church bulletin.
"Too many people say that (emergency preparedness) is the government’s responsibility," he said. "Where’s our pioneer spirit?"