Every year, a sad litany of natural and man-made disasters reminds us why emergency preparedness remains such a critical and continuous need.
Last year at this time, we never knew that the nation would be rocked by the Sandy Hook school shooting, the Arizona wildfires, the Boston Marathon bombings, the Navy Yard rampage, and a host of other unexpected emergencies. Closer to home, Superstorm Sandy, deadly house fires, gas explosions and torrential downpours brought additional pain and destruction to Pennsylvania.
These tragedies remind us of the inspiration behind “First Responders Appreciation Day” and “Emergency Preparedness Month.” Whenever tragedy strikes, our first responders are trained and ready to face any challenge, minimize any damage, and save every life.
Our recent school safety hearings underscored the importance of training, planning, drilling and communicating in a crisis.
Spotlighting the importance of disaster planning is why Pennsylvania joins the nation in designating September as National Emergency Preparedness Month. Planning must occur at the individual, family, local, county, state and national levels, and communication must flow freely from one level to another.
This fall, as we work to overhaul Pennsylvania’s funding formula for our 911 call centers and update our public safety laws in Title 35, this month and day remind us that any one of us could be first on the scene of a tragedy, and we must be prepared. It makes a dramatic difference to first responders if citizens know how to act responsibly rather than collapsing into complete chaos.
It all begins with the development of an emergency plan, but it doesn’t end there. The best plan is no good at all if it sits, unread and unpracticed, on a shelf.
In this time of complex and pervasive danger, everyone must be trained and ready, and plans must be drilled and communicated. In this way, we can better expect the unexpected, and minimize the toll taken by tragedy.