Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans, who attended the announcement, said there are five proactive measures Americans can take to help ensure safety for their families and communities. She encouraged everyone to make a plan, build a kit, get trained, volunteer and give blood. Evans cited readiness principles as vitally important during the heightened threat of terrorism as well as other potential disasters.
"In the new and unsettling world of nonspecific terrorist threats and heightened military alerts, empowering Americans to take practical steps to prepare for emergencies and disasters before they happen is more important than ever," Evans said.
The "Together We Prepare" national preparedness campaign entails the five steps outlined by Evans. However, nearly 1,000 Red Cross chapters and Blood Services regions across the country are partnering with communities to equip residents against emerging dangers and potential disasters before they happen.
"It's not just terrorism for which residents want to be prepared. A tornado or another severe storm can be just as devastating," said John Degand, with disaster services of the North Central Kansas Chapter. "If the terrorist threat is what it takes to make people think about preparedness, the same measures are going to take care of them in a tornado."
Red Cross chapters across the nation have responded with readiness programs unique to their communities. From Sierra Nevada to Rochester, N.Y., citizens are turning out for "Preparing for the Unexpected" classes offered by their local chapters.
"After the Level Orange alert, people started calling asking what they could do," said Lisa Lemons of the Dallas Chapter of the American Red Cross. That chapter responded by offering the "Preparing for the Unexpected" class to the public.
The class features topics such as developing family disaster plans, assembling disaster supply kits, steps to take in an evacuation, how to shelter in your own home and basic first aid and safety skills. Many chapters have also established local hotline numbers that community members may call with questions, concerns and for preparedness information.
Along with "Preparing for the Unexpected" classes, chapters such as the Great Bay Red Cross are offering "Together We Prepare" presentations. "Our plan is to go out into the community and have disaster kit building nights that families can attend, bringing along their own box that we can help stock with donated supplies," said Gary Miller, Director of Disaster Services for the Cincinnati chapter. "We're also promoting family accountability systems as part of preparedness to keep family members in touch in an emergency situation."
The Cincinnati Red Cross also works in conjunction with the local fire department, police department, vocational schools and community emergency response teams to train citizens in various aspects of preparedness, Miller said.