We all should prepare for disaster

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The issue: Disaster preparedness.

Our position: This is something we must all take seriously, therefore, we must all prepare.

It can’t happen here, so why worry. Too often, that’s the attitude of people, families and even entire communities.

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Too often, it results in wasted time, unnecessary damage and lost lives.

How many of us can remember the last time a dangerous chemical spill threatened the well-being of residents?

It’s not likely, but with the volume of trains passing through Selma, it’s a possibility on a daily basis.

Suffice to say, the majority of the people reading this have no idea what to do before the Emergency Management Agency, police and firefighters step in.

The remedy could be one of two options: One, hope for the best. It’s not a bad idea, especially if there is an accompanying prayer. Two, people can educate themselves and become more confident they will survive a natural disaster.

For the greater good, option two sounds like a good idea, or so says the Local Emergency Planning Committee. The LEPC is meeting July 17 at the Dallas County Health Department.

The meeting is not just a brainstorm for local emergency workers.

LEPC heads have invited politicians, environmental groups, transportation representatives, media, businesses and most importantly – members of community-based organizations.

Volunteers, members of neighborhood associations and service clubs are just important as any other people at thus meeting. They can spread the knowledge they obtain to the rest of the people in their portions of the community.

A plan is nothing without the people in place to enact it. The LEPC, a partnership between the EMA, health department and rescue workers, works year-round to make sure Selma and Dallas County have the best possible plan to minimize damage and lost lives in the case of a disaster. This is one of four meetings it holds each year to work on that plan and update vital information.

But it means very little, if anything, without the participation of the people it is meant to protect. Even if you can’t be present, be cognizant of the effects the meeting will have.

Federal law requires businesses to report hazardous chemicals they use or store and how much they have, which means citizens have the right to know how that usage or storage affects them on a daily basis. If there is an industry near your house, be sure there isn’t a danger your children will swim in or drink the result of some company’s carelessness.

Also, be aware that disasters come in various forms and degrees. Terrorists can use biological methods or outright violence anywhere there is a mass accumulation of people – not just in big cities.

There is fire, drought, extreme weather, the release or spill of toxic chemicals and climate change. Again the likelihood of those things happening is slim, but the percentages increase with each apathetic attitude.

It starts with families creating and practicing plans to protect themselves when disaster strikes, otherwise, community-wide efforts will fall by the wayside.

The LEPC is doing a good thing by meeting quarterly and updating its plan for disaster preparedness.