2009 APHA Get Ready Scholarship Winning Essay

The importance of emergency preparation
By David Amutah, winner, Get Ready Scholarship

In life-threatening situations, it is critical for one to have prepared for what is at hand. When people reflect on such emergencies they come to the realization that proper precautions would likely have been prevention. The fact that a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, can strike with little or no warning is an indication of how many measures should be taken when preparing. Even when meteorologists are able to predict the occurrence of a hurricane, problems can arise. Hurricanes can change categories, meteorologists can take inaccurate measurements, and local government can make poor decisions as to what actions to take in emergency situations. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, it grew from a Category 3 tropical storm to a Category 5 in a matter of hours. Situations like these are why it is important for individuals to take the initiative to protect their own. These precautions do not need to be costly investments or even time-consuming. There are many simple things that people can do to alleviate emergency situations and even save lives.

One simple measure to take as prevention for a disaster is the creation of emergency relief kits. Such kits should include a radio, rope, flashlights, fresh batteries, blankets, water, non-perishable food, some sort of compact multi-tool, a reliable list of both local and out of state contacts, and perhaps even a cell phone. This kit could be assembled at a relatively low cost and would certainly help emergency situations greatly. One should take the time to make several kits and place them not only at home but also in the car and workplace. Statistically, you will most likely be in one of these three locations when a disaster occurs. The compiling of such kits may seem a tedious task, and perhaps even futile. However, in the case of an emergency these few items can make a world of difference.

I can recall a personal experience where preparing for an emergency proved to be very beneficial. It was the summer before my eighth-grade school year, and I was at a camp for about a week. Due to the heavy rains and the way that the cabins and tents were built into depressed earth, they warned us about the likeliness of serious flooding. On one particularly rainy afternoon the staff suggested that we pack overnight bags in case we need to move to higher ground in the night. Most of the campers ignored the advice and went about their business. However, my cabin counselor forced us all to prepare. This turned out to be an exceptional executive decision as the rains got worse that night. My group was split between tents and cabins so that night when the tents were completely flooded everyone had to move. The cabins only had minor water damage, but to keep the group of 12- and 13-year -olds together, we all moved to a different part of the camp grounds. My cabin, having prepared bags, endured the same miserable march through the mud as all the others, but our situation got better. When we arrived at our new destination, the main lodge, my group had fresh, warm clothes and supplies to make the stay as comfortable as possible. The others who did not take the time to prepare were forced to sleep in their wet muddy clothing. Luckily, my cabin had packed enough blankets to share with the entire group. In this situation, even with the slightest indication of an emergency, our preparation turned out to be crucial.

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Photo caption: Fire crews work to stop a wildfire in Southern California from advancing in October 2007. (Photo courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency)

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Get Set: An Emergency Preparedness Project Kit
The APHA Get Ready Scholarship was created in conjunction with Get Set: An Emergency Preparedness Project Kit for high school students. The kit, released by APHA in October 2008, is a how-to guide for students interested in taking on preparedness activities at school or in their community.

Check out the full high school project kit (PDF) for ideas and start your activity today!