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WV Disaster Readiness: Planning Ahead Can Prevent Panic

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May 20, 2008

Charleston, WV – Disasters have been big news lately, from tornadoes in Georgia and an acid spill in Louisiana to earthquakes and typhoons in Asia. That may have some West Virginians thinking about disaster preparedness here at home.

David Hoge with the state's Homeland Security Agency says people should do some research on what kinds of disasters can happen in their area, find out when they should take shelter, when they should evacuate, and where to go when they do. He says a little planning can help prevent panic.

"If folks think about the potential threats that exist, and if they come to a greater understanding of what the threats are and what they can possibly do to protect themselves and their family, that really helps to reduce the fear that's associated with many disasters."

Cheryl Ingraham with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters says there are lots of local and statewide groups that help out with disaster plans, and people who want to help their communities can reach out to a number of volunteer groups.

"We have different kinds of trainings that are available through agencies, like Red Cross. So for an individual person that wants to help, finding one of those agencies that fits their kind of interests would be really good."

She says your local church is often a good place to start. Many faith groups are involved in disaster preparation, and provide emergency shelter for disaster victims and support for emergency responders.

David Hoge says preparing yourself for disaster also helps your community, because it takes some of the heat off emergency response agencies.

"So if individuals take responsibility and prepare themselves, they really lessen the burden on the overall community response system, so that those systems can focus on mitigating the problem."

He says there are two good resources for disaster preparedness: a call to your county emergency manager's office, and an online visit to http://www.ready.gov, a federal website that can help you make a disaster preparedness plan.

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WV