As executive director of the Maine State Farm Service Agency, I have traveled around this great state and have seen the resilience of our farmers and ranchers. I have watched them rebuild from the Ice Storm of 1998 and other natural disasters, bouncing back from harsh blows dealt by Mother Nature.

Farmers, however, are not the only ones who have to weather the storm. We all should do a better job of preparing for disasters when they strike, especially the ones that put our families at serious risk.

This month has been National Preparedness Month, a month-long effort to encourage households, businesses, and communities to prepare and plan for emergencies. The Farm Service Agency is participating in America’s PrepareAthon by sharing helpful tips about being prepared for emergencies.

Today is the National Day of Action, an opportunity for individuals, organizations and communities to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions, and exercises.

It is important that we are prepared in the event of an emergency that may force us to be self-reliant for three or more days. Situations such as lost electricity, contaminated water supplies or impassable roads are things we may rarely think about. There may even be a time when we have no access to police, fire or rescue. What do we do in those situations?

Our focus during this month is turning awareness into action by encouraging all individuals and communities nationwide to make an emergency preparedness plan. In the United States in 2012, there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As few as 39 percent of individuals report having an adequate household emergency plan.

We can start preparing with four important steps:

• Stay informed: Information is available from federal, state, local, tribal and territorial resources. Access the Ready.gov website to learn what to do before, during and after an emergency.

• Make a plan: Discuss, agree on and document an emergency plan with those in your care. For sample plans, visit the Ready.gov website. Work together with neighbors, colleagues and others to build community resilience.

• Build a kit: Keep enough emergency supplies — water, nonperishable food, first aid, prescriptions, flashlight and battery-powered radio on hand — for you and those in your care.

• Get involved: There are many ways to get involved, especially before a disaster occurs. The whole community can participate in programs and activities to make their families, homes and places of worship safer from risks and threats. Community leaders agree that the formula for ensuring a safer homeland consists of volunteers, a trained and informed public, and increased support of emergency response agencies during disasters.

Emergency situations do not wait for us to get ready. They hit unexpectedly, giving us little or no time to prepare.

Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to take action, and now is the time to plan so that our family, neighbors and communities can be ready for any natural disaster that may arise.

For more information about the Ready Campaign and National Preparedness Month, visit www.ready.gov/be-informed or call 1-800-BE-READY (1-800-237-3239) or TTY 1-800-462-7585.

Donovan E. Todd III is executive director of the Maine State Farm Service Agency.

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