Emergency preparedness month is a time to prepare for unexpected disasters and emergencies and raise awareness about taking safety precautions in everyday life. Every September, individuals around the nation openly discuss ways to be ready to act in the event of any emergency or disaster.
Deputy Director of Emergency Management Teresa Chapman said Illinois State University’s Emergency Management department is focused on teaching others how to make an emergency kit, make a plan and have a place to go in the event of an emergency or disaster. Mother Nature cannot be controlled, but being ready in a disaster can make all the difference.
“Our primary goal is to make sure that the campus is prepared in case something bad happens and ultimately, our goal is to keep everybody safe,” Chapman said.
During this year’s emergency preparedness month, Chapman said emphasizing the importance of preparing an emergency kit is her primary focus. Individuals should plan to pack a variety of items in their emergency kits: water; food; medicine, if they regularly take medication; and cash. Chapman said people should have the mindset while building their kit that they could survive with their kit on their own for up to 72 hours.
“If you take a look at what’s happening in Louisiana right now—we’re over 10 days past Ida—and they’re still struggling with a lack of water, food, power, and communication. Obviously, that’s the extreme, and we don’t expect people to prepare themselves for that long, but at least three days,” Chapman said.
For Illinois State students living on campus, Chapman said that the University will do everything it can to provide for students in the event of an emergency, but she still advises them to assemble an emergency preparation kit with personalized items and always be prepared for the unexpected.
“Personalize it. If your favorite snack is a chocolate chip granola bar, then that’s what you should put in yours. Whatever we suggest is just a suggestion; we just want people to think about, ‘What would I want to have to keep me safe and healthy in a disaster?’” Chapman said.
The Emergency Management department implemented a social media campaign a few days before September to spread information about emergency preparedness. Each day this month, the department posts a photo of a suggested item to add to your emergency preparedness kit.
Those wanting to participate should send photographs or videos to the Emergency Management department through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using the tag #SafeRedbirds. At the end of the month, the person with the best emergency kit will receive an Illinois State University backpack and blanket.
“We always want to make sure we’re pushing that preparedness message particularly among students who are living in the now and not thinking about all the things that could happen in the future,” Chapman said. “We know that bad days happen every single day for somebody—whether it’s a simple house fire or a hurricane. We just want to make sure people can stay safe.”
Chapman went on to say that for families or individuals living off campus, she encourages them to have an emergency action plan. She said it’s important to ask the questions, “How do you communicate with loved ones if traditional communication tools [phones] were down?” and “Where’s the next safe place for you to be and meet up with people you know?”
While having an emergency kit is important, Chapman said that professors and students should also make note to be always aware of their surroundings and know where exits and fire alarms are.
In addition, the emergency management office offers training on active assailants to help faculty, staff, and students build skills needed in a nonnatural hazardous situation.
“We would just ask people to be aware, pay attention, speak up when they see something that’s not right because that’s often the thing that you’ll hear. ‘Oh, I noticed something weird, but I didn’t say anything.’ Go ahead and say something and use the resources that we have on campus, and report it to the authorities on campus,” Chapman said.
To keep yourself and others safe, Chapman said the Illinois State University community should continue seeking out opportunities to learn and be prepared during an emergency even after the month of September ends.
“This is a very safe campus, but we want people to know what they would do if that bad day happens and how best to help somebody else as well,” Chapman said. “We’ve got students for four years—typically. We’re going to try to protect them and help them as much as we can while they’re here.”