Making preparedness something you think about daily is the best strategy. Having enough supplies for two weeks for each member of the family can start small
SALEM – As the east coast continues to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Isaias, wildfires in California have caused 8,000 people to evacuate their homes, many states face increasingly high Coronavirus case numbers, and civil unrest wrecks (several of our communities; many are wondering what 2020 will bring next. You hear it in conversations with your friends and loved ones, the feeling of powerlessness and thinly veiled fear that we are all experiencing as one of the many effects of the first half of the year’s events. The conventional wisdom in such times is to focus on what you can control, which is why now, more than ever, it is important to be Two Weeks Ready.
The Two Weeks Ready campaign was started here in Oregon when the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) implemented a recommendation from the Oregon Resilience Plan, which found that after a Cascadia subduction event, citizens having enough supplies to survive for two weeks on their own would greatly increase lives saved.
“The old adage of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, here in Oregon, means being two weeks ready,” said Andrew Phelps, Director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. “Here at OEM, we constantly train and plan for all types of emergencies and disasters. But it’s not enough that OEM prepares. When rivers rise, the earth shakes or the wind blows, our citizens need to be self-sufficient for up to two weeks. That is the best way to save lives after a disaster.”
Two Weeks Ready, simply put, is about having enough supplies and a game plan to be able to survive on your own for at 14 days. This is the expected amount of time, given a large scale event like Cascadia, that it may take for emergency services to help.
A Cascadia Subduction event occurs every 300 to 400 years and has become the focus of what emergency manager’s practice for in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. The 9.0 to 9.6 earthquake and following tsunami has the potential to be the largest natural disaster in U.S. history.
“Every day we don’t have a disaster provides more time to prepare,” said Phelps. “We don’t know when a Cascadia event will occur in Oregon, but we do know that we are overdue, so each day that we have to prepare in advance is a gift that we should use to our advantage. Every step we take to prepare for a Cascadia quake also helps us with the smaller disasters that we face every year like wildfires and floods.”
Having enough supplies for two weeks for each member of the family as well as pets and livestock is a task that can seem daunting, which is why starting small and making preparedness something you think about daily is the best strategy.
“What you learn when you start to work towards being two weeks ready, is that it is a shift to a culture of preparedness,” said Phelps. “If you have a family of four, for example, two weeks ready means having 56 gallons of water, given the rate of one gallon per person, per day. The two weeks ready culture is about starting small with what you can store and then looking for creative ways that you and your family can get to Two Weeks Ready like identifying a nearby, consistent water source and a method to make that water safe for drinking and sanitation in an emergency. A culture of preparedness is more than acquiring ‘stuff.’ It is also about using other resources you may have access to during a disaster, how to communicate and get information when you cell phone may not work, and how to take basic life-saving actions like first aid, CPR, or shutting off utilities after a major earthquake.”
In late February, our preparedness as a state was challenged in a less common way with the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States. As Governor Brown enacted Stay Home, Save Lives (Executive Order 20-12), we saw a run on items like toilet paper and water. The fear of not being able to get needed supplies then triggered more people to go out and get more than they needed. In this context, where reducing the number of people in circulation is the goal to reduce transmission, Oregonians not being two weeks ready was an issue.
As the state grapples with increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and heads into fire season, Jamie Bash, risk communication analyst for the Health Security, Preparedness and Response Program and Deputy Public Information Officer for Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 response, says there are some simple ways to make sure your two weeks ready plan includes pandemic preparedness.
“Access and good use of water, sanitation and hygiene are bulwarks of illness prevention,” said Bash. “In the early stages of COVID we saw that though there wasn’t a true shortage of sanitation and hygiene products, there was a strain on the distribution channel’s ability to keep pace with demand. So make sure you cover your basic needs when you start preparing. Avoid waiting until the disaster or pandemic hits to have a little extra stored up.”
Another mainstay of two weeks ready is tailoring your kit and plan to your family. In the case of COVID, that can mean having what your family needs medically.
“We’ve seen school and child care become disrupted, and people with chronic conditions and many older adults choosing to follow guidance urging them to take extra precautions,” said Bash. “This highlights the need for families and communities to tailor their preparedness plans. Plans should look at and adjust to meet the needs associated with various life-stages, access and functional needs and disproportionately affected groups. Examples of what might be tailored include having14 days worth of medications or medical supplies, a good communication plan with people who provide assistance or care, and back up plans.”
Bash also emphasized that financial preparedness was and is a big factor in a pandemic where economic uncertainty has become a downstream effect of the virus.
“In public health, we also look at what are known as social determinants of public health,” said Bash. “We know that financial health and social factors like race, ethnicity and level of education all affect an individual’s ability to achieve and maintain health. In this pandemic, we’ve noticed a lot of our 211 information calls have been linked to financial concerns like rental assistance, utility assistance, unemployment and financial assistance to businesses. It tells us that we may need to focus more on financial preparedness. We need to acknowledge that saving is difficult for some. For those folks, financial preparedness may start with learning about where to access assistance quickly. We should consider how to start saving too, but we can start small with a change jar on the counter or opening a bank account for the first time.”
As we all fight off the fatigue of uncertainty that 2020 has dealt already, looking ahead at the rest of the year can seem daunting. But we would all do well to look at what we can control and start small. Look at the needs of your family and how you can start to prepare for disasters and emergencies today. We may never be able to avoid all risks, but every step we take today will mitigate the effects large scale disasters have on our families and communities.