Our hearts go out to the Gulf Coast region, where Hurricane Harvey continues to wreak havoc. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, while rescuers on Thursday started block-by-block searches as the floodwaters begin to recede.
Alaskans are eager and willing to help. In fact, there are many already headed south, including members of the Alaska National Guard to assist with search and rescue operations, and volunteers with the Red Cross of Alaska, who will work to provide safe shelter and comfort to people impacted by the storm.
According to the Red Cross, one of the best ways to help in the immediate aftermath is through financial donations. You can find a link to donate on the Alaska Red Cross website, http://www.redcross.org/local/alaska.
Keep in mind, the Gulf Coast is in for a very long recovery. While the flood is receding, the damage assessment is just getting started. Clean-up and rebuilding will take months, if not years. Gulf Coast residents need help now, and there will be work to do well into the future.
While we keep Gulf Coast residents and all those working to help in our thoughts, we’d also suggest that now is a good time to think about disaster preparedness here at home. September is National Preparedness Month, and while we haven’t seen devastation on the same scale as that caused by Harvey, we do have our share of emergencies. There are areas on the Kenai Peninsula prone to flooding, and we’ve also experienced earthquakes, ashfall from volcanic eruptions, harsh weather including high winds and extreme cold, wildland fires, even avalanches that can cut off our only road access.
Emergency response say that in the event of a disaster, it could be several days before vital services are restored. If a disaster were to strike, how many of us actually have enough food and water for ourselves and our family? Are supplies for the pets accounted for as well? How about essential medications? In the event of an evacuation, do we know what we need to take with us? Are there emergency supplies and gear in our cars?
The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management has links to emergency preparedness information at checklists on its website, http://www.kpb.us/emergency-mgmt/oem/oem-home. It also has a link at which you can register your cell phone to receive emergency messages.
Take some time over the holiday weekend to evaluate your own family’s level of emergency preparedness. Living in Alaska means it’s not a matter of if, but when the next emergency arises. A little bit of preparation now can help weather the storm.
And please, keep the folks along the Gulf Coast, who continue to weather the storm, in your thoughts in the coming days and months.