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ReadyFest helps teach emergency planning
Michael Viera, left, stops by the Hall County Fire Services booth to speak with Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle during Monday evening’s ReadyFest event at the Georgia Mountains Center.

During a disaster, it’s up to Hall County residents to be their own first responders.

Officials from Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Hall County Emergency Management Agency, Hall County Community Emergency Response Team and others explained how residents could be prepared during any type of weather, fire or health disaster.

“Georgia had the first federally declared disaster on May 2, 1953. It was a tornado,” said Lisa Newman, a public affairs official with GEMA. “Until 1990, we had 19 in Georgia, and since then, we’ve had 28. ... Disasters do happen here in Georgia. People never think it will happen to them until it does.”

In honor of National Preparedness Month, Hall County EMA officials planned ReadyFest, a free event to help people prepare and be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours during a disaster.

“In 95 percent of emergencies, bystanders or victims are the first to perform rescue attempts or mitigate any damage,” said Robert Copelan of Hall County CERT. “There is one firefighter for every 265 people, one officer for every 334 people and one paramedic for every 325 people. If you live in a neighborhood of 100 people, only a few officials can respond. It’s up to the rest of the neighborhood to take care of itself.”

A part of resident preparedness is having a family disaster kit with three days worth of supplies for each family member.

The disaster kit should include common sense items — a first aid kit, bottled water, nonperishable food and flashlights with batteries — but also a few items people may not think of such as emergency blankets, gloves, rope and duct tape.

Residents should be ready to deal with situations that keep them blocked in the house, such as an ice storm, or disasters that keep them away from the house, such as flooding. This includes reconnecting with family members if phone lines go down.

“Do you know where to meet up with your family during an emergency?” Newman said. “In a survey we did, 79 percent of Georgians aren’t ready, and only 30 percent know they must be prepared for 72 hours in a disaster.”

Newman suggested stocking up on water, nonperishable food and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio to receive alerts targeted to the local area, especially at night.

“Think about everyone. Have a plan for your pets. Many shelters don’t take pets,” she said. “Also, have a support network for older or disabled family members. Know what medications they’re taking, and have that ready.”

Copelan encouraged residents to join local emergency teams or volunteer for law enforcement agencies to help regularly or during specific disaster times.

“We all have a role in hometown security,” Copelan said. “The reduction in budgets has happened in all areas of government, and volunteers provide support. You’re helping your own government to balance the budget and stay in the black.”