Emergency-Preparedness

When Lord Robert Baden-Powell wrote the famous handbook “Scouting for Boys,” he explained the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” in part, this way: “Be prepared … by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.”

That’s quite an order for anyone, especially in complex, changing times.

However, there are some actions we can all do to make our families, our communities and ourselves a little more on guard for a disaster or emergency. Having recently experienced a tornado in San Antonio, and a number of hurricanes and floods, I’ve become a believer in Benjamin Franklin’s axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

In the wake of February’s devastating weather event in our area, I learned about a couple of incredibly simple, useful tools for folks who want to optimize their readiness for a local catastrophe.

The first is the website of the San Antonio Office of Emergency Management – saoemprepare.com.

The online site is a virtual treasure trove of information. You’ll find TransGuide camera links, real-time maps of CPS Energy power outages, and road closings. There’s also a link to the San Antonio Flood Emergency System (www.safloodsafe.com), a great reference for all of us living in South Texas’ “Flash Flood Alley.”

There are printable brochures and downloadable guides to making and maintaining an all-purpose emergency kit, and creating a specific pre-emptive plan for your family  — including vital health records, shutting off utilities, dealing with pets and more. You can put it all together by installing the free Ready South Texas app on your cellphone or mobile device.

It’s available for iPhone and Android users, and it’s easy to access and navigate – I tried it, and it’s clear and simple. Ready South Texas also gives you direction for responding to public-health emergencies, terrorist incidents, active-shooter situations, floods and disaster recovery.

“With this app, if something bad happens, you have your preparedness in the palm of your hand,” said Battalion Fire Chief Larry Treviño, the city’s top emergency management coordinator.

He also urged everyone to sign up for AlertSA, another free, potentially lifesaving program serving Bexar, Comal and Guadalupe counties. Treviño noted AlertSA was created after a survey a few years ago showed that 35 percent of San Antonio residents don’t have landline telephones in their homes.

“We work closely with Bexar Metro (911 Network District) on a reverse 911 program, so if there is an emergency, dispatch will call all landlines in the area with a recorded message,” Treviño said. “For instance, if there was a hazmat spill, it would tell you to turn off your air conditioner and stay inside, or if a wildfire was coming, it would tell you to get out and away. Now, with AlertSA you can receive that in a cellphone call, text and email, too.”

Register online at AlertSA.com.

Through AlertSA, you can also indicate if recipients are blind or low vision, deaf or hearing-impaired, or have physical or mental challenges. Such information enables the emergency system automatically to pinpoint an exact address and send a first responder to someone needing extra help. Treviño said about 10,000 people have registered so far.

Here’s hoping you never have to face fire, flood or any other calamity. However, if you do, wouldn’t it be nice to be ready in advance?

syerkes@localcommunitynews.com                                                                                                                              

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