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Preparation for disasters civic responsibility

Many of the disasters experienced every year by Ohioans occur with very little warning: winter weather can paralyze a region with blizzard-like conditions or ice storms; tornadoes can devastate communities; and flooding, as we’ve recently seen, can damage property and communications equipment and even take lives.

And despite our best efforts to prevent them, acts of terrorism may happen with no warning at all.

In 95 percent of emergency situations, bystanders or victims themselves are the first to provide emergency assistance. Regular folks doing dangerous work intended for professional first responders will never be safe — but it can be made safer if the people doing it have prepared properly for the moment.

Now, the question is: are you prepared?

Are you prepared to handle the loss of your basic utilities? Losing these services for an hour or two is an inconvenience; to be without them for several days or weeks would be a severe disruption — both to individuals’ lives and to local economies.

September is National Preparedness Month, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Throughout the month, DHS will be working with organizations nationwide to educate citizens about the personal responsibilities involved with a natural or man-made disaster.

A few recommended items to include in the kit are: water (enough to last several days, but an amount you can transport); food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food); a battery-powered radio and extra batteries; a flashlight and extra batteries; a first aid kit (don’t forget prescription medications); cash; a whistle to signal for help; a change of clothes; a dust mask to help filter the air; moist towelettes and sanitary products; a Swiss Army knife or similar tool; and a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

A vital part of being prepared is communicating with your family and local community. This September, be sure to set aside a day to speak with your family, friends and neighbors about how you would respond in an emergency. Find out how you can get involved and take the time now to prepare for situations that may arise in the future. Preparation is the key to a swift response and safe outcome.

Being prepared is more than just a suggestion — it is our civic responsibility.

It is vital that we reassess where we stand when it comes to disaster preparedness and learn to expect the unexpected.

George Voinovich is a U.S. senator from Ohio.