“With the kickoff of the ‘Together We Prepare’ campaign in Catoosa County, Northwest Georgia Services of the American Red Cross joins more than 1,000 American Red Cross chapters, blood services regions and Armed Forces Emergency Services stations nationwide in working to make the country safer from disaster,” said Robert Goff, director of resource development of Northwest Georgia Services for the American Red Cross. “We are encouraging the residents of Catoosa County to join the grassroots efforts to make sure that Catoosa is better prepared should disaster strike by doing five simple things: make a plan, build a kit, get trained, volunteer and give blood.
“With the possibility of war, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and everyday emergencies, being prepared can help save lives,” he said. “These five actions will help make Catoosa County homes, schools, workplaces and communities safer. The Red Cross is well positioned to organize preparedness activities. Every individual has the opportunity to play a role; when we come together we become something bigger than us all.”
Goff encourages residents to review the Red Cross website, www.redcross.org, to get all the information needed to prepare for disaster and create your family’s disaster supply kit.
“I would wager 99 percent of families in Catoosa do not have a disaster supply kit in their home,” he said. “Here in Northwest Georgia we could catch the tail end of a hurricane, wildfire, tornado or flooding.
“If you have an infant like I do, you have to think about diapers, or any medication you may need; do you have a radio and a flashlight? Do you have plans for what to do with your pets? If we are evacuated, shelters that allow pets are very, very rare.”
Goff urges everyone to be trained in CPR, cardio pulmonary resuscitation, and first aid.
With concerns about chemical or airborne hazards, government officials have suggested having duct tape and plastic sheeting on hand. Goff agrees but for other reasons.
“For several years the Red Cross has been suggesting you have plastic sheeting and tape in your home, but the reason is not because we have been suspicious about a chemical attack,” he said. “The reason is if there is a tornado and the windows get blown out you have plastic sheeting to put over windows. Plastic sheeting can also be used to keep somebody warm because it will contain body heat.
“We want you to be ready for anything,” he said. “If you prepare for these steps, if it is a tornado, a earthquake or a chemical, you will be ready to respond and you can adapt to it.”
Goff said a relatively new term for this area is “shelter in place,” which means that you may be required by the EMA or local officials to stay somewhere indefinitely.
“Businesses need to think about what their organization might have to contend with if employees are required to stay there due to an emergency,” he said. “What if an organization has 50 people on the clock and they are told they have to shelter in place for three days?”
Goff urges businesses to be ready for everything.
“We are in an area where we might be indirectly affected if things happen in Chattanooga,” he said. “Ringgold is not a big mecca with high standing buildings, but at the same time the possibility of disaster is not something we want to take lightly.”
Goff said since Catoosa has an interstate traversing it there are other concerns.
“We have to look at ‘what if?’ situations,” he said. “What if the interstate shuts down and people have to go through Ringgold like when the 87 car pile-up occurred in March of 2002; are we ready for it? What if it’s something that is not over in six or seven hours? What if the motorists are just stuck here?
“What if one parent works in Dalton, the other works in Chattanooga and their child goes to Ringgold High School? They suddenly find out they cannot get back into Ringgold. What are they going to do?”
Goff said the family needs a meeting place and an outside contact person that they all can call to check in.
“I think it is an education from the start,” he said. “You never think about things like this. We believe its really not going to happen. It is better to be prepared and never have to do it.”
Governed by volunteers and supported by community donations, the American Red Cross is dedicated to saving lives and helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Through its 1.2 million volunteers and 30,000 employees, the Red Cross annually mobilizes relief to families affected by more than 67,000 disasters, trains almost 12 million in lifesaving skills and exchanges more than 1 million emergency messages between U.S. military services personnel and their families. The Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood and blood products to more than 3,000 hospitals across the nation and also assists victims of international disasters and conflicts at locations worldwide.
For more information on “Together We Prepare,” including how to make a disaster plan, build a kit, get trained, volunteer and give blood, call Northwest Georgia Services at (423) 265-3455 or visit www.redcross.org