Homeland Security and You
By Sharon Hassell
            When I was asked to write about Homeland Security, I realized how distant the September 11, 2001, trauma has become. Our nation appears to be healed and safe again.
            But a closer look at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Obama administration reveals its focus on terminology, overseas contingency operation and man-made disasters, rather than the War on Terror and terrorist attacks.
            I opened the DHS website, www.dhs.gov, and was surprised that our National Threat Level is Elevated, or Yellow — meaning a significant risk of terrorist attacks. Our Domestic and International Flight Threat Levels are High, or Orange — indicating a high risk of terrorist attacks.
             How could I have missed the advisories and responsible media coverage keeping us informed? Quite simply, we had no advisories or media coverage.
            So I sought information that would apply, regardless of the emergency or National Threat Level. The answer is to be prepared. 
            To prepare for the unexpected, develop a Family Emergency Preparedness Plan and make an Emergency Supply Kit. These preparations will help in either a natural or man-made emergency and are worthwhile at any National Threat Level.
            Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan in advance. Think how you will contact one another. Cellular and landline phone services may not work. How will you get back together? Where you will meet? Every family member needs to participate in creating the plan. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones in an emergency if you think ahead.
            You also need to inquire about emergency plans where your family spends time — at work, daycare and school. What preparations are in place to care for your child for an extended period of time? How will the children be kept safe? To whom will the daycare facility or school release your child? If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create an emergency plan.
            Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together in an emergency. Identify residents with special needs, the elderly or disabled, and children who may need care until their parents can get home. This is an excellent opportunity for Homeowner Associations to bring the community together.
            Emergency Supply Kits are as individual as each family. Include water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and supplies, and special requirements to meet your family’s needs. Electric power may be out for an extended period, so food items should be non-perishable. Get a manual can opener, flashlight and some age-appropriate books, playing cards and board games. For those with children, or Grand Mamas who fill in until Mom and Dad can get home, the last three items could be a key to your survival.  
             Information on federal and state government websites can assist you through the planning process. I strongly recommend that you start at www.whatsyourrq.org. This is a fun website that will test your family’s Readiness Quotient (RQ), your workplace RQ, your school RQ, and your community RQ.
            Most Americans remain unprepared. Only 4% have taken all of the preparedness actions recommended and 23% have not taken a single action. We can change those statistics if we start today.
Sharon Hassell is DDRWC Homeland Security chairman. This article is adapted from what Sharon wrote for the Northwood Republican Women newsletter. Sharon is a Northwood associate member.