Build resilience, preparedness before a disaster strikes

We all have heard the statement: ďIt takes a village to raise a child.Ē I would like to expand on that and say: ďIt takes a community to prepare for and respond to a disaster.Ē

For years, many preparedness organizations have stressed the importance of preparing yourself and your family for any emergency or disaster that may happen. Knowing that resources in our community would be stretched after any disaster and that we might be on our own for several days, I would say we need to build resiliency within our community before the disaster strikes.

We need to engage ourselves as faith-based organizations, civic groups and neighborhoods and build on our own personal preparedness plans and include others.

Some people feel that if their neighbor isnít prepared, itís their fault. To some extent that is true; we all need to have some personal responsibility in this matter.

Naturally, community members will band together during any disaster. Dealing with and recovering from that disaster will be more effective if all community members have prepared in advance. This means sharing knowledge among all residents and encouraging care for each other after the incident.

I have encouraged area residents for the last 5 years to take time to make sure they have addressed the need for a 72-hour kit for their homes and emergency kits for their vehicles. When I go into the community and speak, I find that most people have yet to complete this task.

You donít have to spend large amounts of money and time to put together a kit for your family. I would like you all to take the time this week to speak to one of your neighbors or friends about what it takes to make sure they are prepared, not forgetting the fact that you also need to be prepared. Visit www.coloradoredcross.org/prepare for information about how to prepare.

When we speak of resiliency, we know it is not a quick fix. You need to look at long-term strengthening of a community and, sometimes, even a complete mindset change. But once we take this step and start to develop that resiliency, the ability to absorb and recover from a disastrous event will be shortened. It also will allow us to recover quickly and return to normal.

I encourage emergency managers, community leaders and nongovernmental agencies in our area to identify ways we can work together as a community to make sure we are all prepared ahead of time and ready to face any disruption of power, a snowstorm, a wildfire or other emergency together. Letís find a way to build the capacity of our region and make Southwest Colorado an example of how a community can work together to become self-sufficient and resilient that others in the state can emulate.

Cindi Shank is executive director of the Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross.