There are many things we may regret in life, but being prepared for emergencies is not one of them. You might say I have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was forced to evacuate summer camp at Baxter State Park during the 1977 wildfire. I was the first on the scene of a fatal car accident on I-95 and kept one of the victims conscious until help arrived. I attempted CPR on a heart attack victim with phone guidance, but I had not yet been trained.

I performed the Heimlich maneuver on three occasions after taking CPR and first aid training. Recently I walked a friend through the steps of extinguishing a gas grill fire, another first-hand experience of mine.

Experts say nothing prompts us to take steps to prepare for disaster more than first-hand experiences. That is true, and I’m glad I was somewhat prepared for many of these situations.

But I also realized I could be more prepared.

Why wait until a disaster to prepare? September is National Preparedness Month. It’s a great time to make a plan for you, your family and friends. This can be as simple as knowing where to meet outside your home, in your community and outside town in case of an emergency. Exchange contact numbers, but have an out-of-town contact in case local phone lines are down. Know your evacuation routes, have an evacuation plan and practice evacuating with children and pets. Sign up for alerts and warnings in your area. Build an emergency kit with enough food, water, medication, cash and other necessities that you would need to get by for at least three days. And don’t forget pets!

All emergencies start at the local level. We all have a significant role in preparedness so we can take care of ourselves and our families until help arrives. Every municipality in the state of Maine is required by law to have an emergency management director. When your community is struck by a hazardous materials spill, hurricane, ice storm, forest fire, flood, tornado or other disaster event, your municipal emergency management director will lead response and recovery efforts. Before a disaster event occurs, your local emergency management director will be busy behind the scenes working on disaster plans, organizing training and exercises and providing public information on disaster preparedness.


Often these folks are volunteers or serve in their role as an additional duty to their regular responsibilities. Find out who your local director might be, and you might even offer to volunteer to help them out.

The local emergency management director also acts as a liaison to county emergency management, and each county in Maine has an emergency Management Agency. County EMAs provide an invaluable link between the almost 500 cities and towns in Maine and the state EMA office in Augusta. They provide support, training and leadership in preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation to their local, business and volunteer partners.

The Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency is in Augusta and can be reached at 623-8407. They can connect you with your local emergency management director and many other valuable resources and information.

Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can.

Susan Faloon is special projects coordinator/public information officer for the Maine Emergency Management Agency in Augusta.

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