Student Assembly: Safety Preparedness

What: Safety & Preparedness

When: Today

Where: Main Auditorium

Guest Presenter: Jo Becker

National Preparedness Month, observed in September since 2004, is a time when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local responders encourage everyone to take steps to prepare for disaster — at home, school, work, and in their communities.

How to prepare for the unexpected, be it a house fire, a pet in seizure, or nearby wildfire — or more regional events like an earthquake?

Among my favorite tips is to think through your plan and number your supplies. Here’s how it works: 

When immediate evacuation is required (think house fire — the most common disaster, with one reported every 86 seconds), then get low and get out. Because many house fires happen at night, chances are the exit will be out the bedroom window. Me? I want more options. I want every avenue available for my pets to exit with me.

If disaster is imminent but there’s time to exit via the front door, grab wallet, keys, family and animals, and go. I keep collapsible crates in the trunk that can be assembled for the pets’ safety and comfort once we reach a secure area.

When there is forewarning (say slow-rising flood waters or wildfire in the general vicinity), I’d grab my lovebugs and secure them in carriers, grab wallet and keys, and take them to the car. Then I’d go back in, and from the closet by the door grab Bag #1, which has a minimum of food and water for all of us, to supplement emergency supplies I carry in my trunk. It also has a copy of emergency contact information and places we might evacuate to (another copy is always in the car), as well as maps, lights, gloves, hats, copies of important documents, a little cash and a recent backup of computer files. If there’s time for a second trip in, I’ll grab Bags #2, and so on.

Once done with the numbered supplies in the front closet, if time still remained, I’d turn refer to instructions posted inside the closet door. It lists coolers in the shed that can be loaded with food from the refrigerator or freezer and stowed in the vehicle, further extending emergency rations. The list also includes personal comfort items (jammies), family heirlooms, and things like my laptop or tower in the event there’s time and space in the getaway vehicle.

This preparedness plan allows one to act without much thought, regardless of what’s happening.

If all of this seems scary and overwhelming, here’s a golden nugget I find infinitely hopeful and reassuring. Even if you had no money for supplies (or they exist but you can’t get to them for some reason) know that just thinking ahead about possible ‘what ifs’ and how you’d handle them can significantly increase the odds that you and all of your family members will not only survive, but go on to thrive following an incident.

This September, accept the preparedness challenge. Take steps to prepare your home, family and animals should the unexpected or unthinkable occur.

A pet mom and surrogate livestock handler for neighbors, Jo Becker is passionate about disaster planning for the entire family. Learn more about Jo at