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Preparedness begins at home, resulting in stronger communities

By Sharon Loper

As 2015 begins, it's an opportunity to take stock of our lives and examine what we can do to make them better and improve the community around us. While the holiday season and New Year provide times for friends and family to come together, it can also be a time to discuss ways to keep us, our family and our community safer. One thing I'd like to you to do in the coming year is RESOLVE TO BE READY.

As individuals, we can take small actions that have a major impact for ourselves and our immediate family, and also for our greater community. Being ready isn't a one-time action; it's a commitment to preparing for all hazards that might impact us. From travelling with a winter survival kit, to making sure your property is insured, to creating defensible space around one's home to mitigate against wildfires - there are things we can do to minimize the chance that we will incur harm.  Taking these steps not only gives peace of mind, but can protect you from harm, protect you financially, help us be ready to help our neighbors,  and allow first responders the ability to concentrate on the most urgent needs.

Disaster response and recovery and resiliency require the involvement of the entire community, from state and local officials, to the private sector to individual citizens. When an event occurs, it is those who are closest at hand that will be able to provide immediate response, so it's vital that our citizens and communities take ownership in preparedness as the initial building block of emergency management.

As you look over your 2015 calendar, take some time to learn about the hazards that you face in your community, be it flooding or tornadoes or wildfires. Make the effort to plan for the safety of your household and ensure that such an event doesn't create a financial hardship. And urge your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors to do the same, helping to build stronger communities across this region and the nation as a whole.

Sharon Loper is the Acting Administrator for FEMA Region VIII, which covers the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.