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Local EMA director talks preparedness

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 9/27/22

September is National Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is “A Lasting Legacy.”

The goal is to raise awareness about …

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Local EMA director talks preparedness

September is National Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is “A Lasting Legacy.”
The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time.
David Kitchens, Bedford’s Emergency Management Director, said, “National preparedness month is geared to citizens of the community to give them an idea that it is beneficial to prepare for something before it happens and to have a plan in place.”
FEMA data from 2019 shows 67,504 people were injured by weather-related problems, like flash floods, tropical storms, and heatwaves.
Just like teaching tornado drills in schools, thinking about emergency preparedness will help your family have a “lasting legacy,” Kitchens explains.
“It’s about keeping your loved ones safe and secure so you can continue your family,” he said.
The 2016 National Household Survey showed 75% of Americans have disaster supplies in their homes. However, many don’t have a safety plan. The same survey also revealed that less than 50% of Americans created a household emergency plan.
Kitchens says this is because people are busy with other things. “Our lives are hustle and bustle all the time...so it’s hard to fit it in.”
But there are a couple things you and your family can do to focus on “preparing” this month.
One of the goals for this National Preparedness Month is to encourage families to learn how to put an emergency kit together and how to react in disasters with their communication and finances.
For one, communicate with your family. “Do you have a central location where your family can meet?” Kitchens asks. Realize what your needs are, like if you have young children, elders, or family with special needs and how to accommodate them.
Once in place, Kitchens suggests going over that plan several times a year.
Simple preparedness activities can also include floodproofing your house and securing items that can shake loose in the event of an earthquake.
Emergency kits can be used for any type of emergency, like fires, tornados, ice storms, and flash floods.
And even though the fall season is typically a “lull season,” tornadoes are still possible, while rain is come and go.
“The threat of severe weather is still there, even through the end of the year when we begin our winter threat,” Kitchens said.
Kitchens also adds, “You have to keep in mind also that we have hazardous chemical facilities that may require people to shelter in place.”
He continues, “We have the railway through town that may cause people to be displaced for whatever reason.”
Assistant EMA director Tammy Anderson suggests putting in things like water (one gallon per person per day), nonperishable food, battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit with medicines, whistle, blankets, and baby supplies. Also, create different kinds of kits, like for your car or your workplace.
Kitchens explains the smallest items can make the biggest difference. For example, a whistle can also come in handy when thinking about river safety. Emergency personnel can hear you and therefore find you better.
And with Bedford County, “The more it grows, the more we have to be aware of what’s need by the citizens and the county to make it safe,” Kitchens said.
More people typically mean more business. “Even with the new businesses coming in, we sit down with those folks too and talk about what are safety concerns or what are things we need to be looking at down the road, that way we can be prepared when it does get here.”
For business owners, Kitchens says look into the financial part of a disaster coming. For example, several Nashville businesses had to close down after the 2020 Christmas Bombing. And you don’t necessarily need dozens of safety kits either; just having a few is better than none at all Kitchens advises.
Being a part of such initiatives is one way Bedford’s EMA hopes to look out for the community year-round.
“They dedicate a month to preparedness, but preparedness is all year long. Take time to take care of the people you love because you never know what situation you’ll find yourself in,” said Kitchens.
It’s also another reason why EMA, and several other emergency services, will be hosting their National Night Out on Oct. 4 at H.V. Griffith Park from 5 to 8 p.m.
Assistant director Anderson said the event is something law enforcement has been doing to bring the community together. All public safety is invited out, including emergency medical services, the sheriff’s department, police department, and Animal Control. State partners from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, and FEMA will be present,
passing out more information on how to practice preparedness. There will also be a blood drive during the event.

They also talk with other emergency departments to get the process started for how to get additional training or equipment with a growing area. “It has to be planned for,” said Kitchens.