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A Family Survival Plan

Preparing for an emergency

The 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons reminded every Floridian of the awesome power of tropical systems. As an unprecedented nine named storms made landfall in the state, every community in Florida had to pull together to combat the devastating effects. In the aftermath, Florida’s emergency management community reassessed every aspect of its disaster response operations, keeping what worked and tossing what didn’t. There was one truth that emerged, though. Floridians need to be better prepared for disasters.

To accomplish this goal, the Division of Emergency Management launched a campaign to educate residents and visitors on the importance of disaster readiness. What made this effort unique was its focus on preparing the state’s children for emergencies.

Early on the agency recognized that disasters don’t just affect adults. Florida’s kids need disaster preparedness information as well.

So the agency launched, a fun, interactive website that presents basic weather safety and emergency preparedness concepts through age-appropriate activities and stories. Kids can play games that teach them how to build a disaster supply kit, practice proper lightning safety and learn other essential safety facts.

“Our intention is to reach every family in Florida to teach them about being prepared,” said Bryan W. Koon, director of the Division of Emergency Management. “With these online applications, parents as well as children can be prepared for any potential disaster Florida may face.”

The website also features a portal to this year’s video and poster entries for the 2011 Severe Weather Awareness Week Contest. In January, the agency teamed with the American Red Cross to offer Florida students the chance to create safety posters and public service announcements for a statewide disaster preparedness messaging contest. More than 800 students throughout the state entered the competition, making 2011 the event’s biggest year. The winners of the middle school and high school public service announcement video contests will each remake their 30-second commercials with professional film crews. These ads will air statewide before and during the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

For the 2011 Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, the agency’s focus is educating Floridians on the importance of having a disaster plan and an emergency supply kit. A disaster plan is a predetermined, flexible guide for your family during emergencies. It addresses concerns such as where your family will go in case of an evacuation order, what routes you will take, how you will communicate with relatives and friends and what you should do with your pets.

It also is important to plan for family members and friends with a disability or who are elderly. Visit for help with the planning process.

Since it can take up to 72 hours for emergency responders to reach disaster survivors after a major incident, your emergency supply kit should have everything your family needs to survive for at least three days. This includes three gallons of water for each person in your family, nonperishable food and medicines. You also should include emergency contact lists, important documents, flashlights, batteries and personal hygiene items. Entertainment items, such as games, books and magazines, also can be added.

“We hope Florida residents who don’t yet have a plan will take a few moments to create one, and that they include everyone in the family,” said Bureau of Preparedness Chief Gwen Keenan. “Whether you’re five or 95, having a plan before disaster strikes will help ensure you and your family survive.”

The Division of Emergency Management is committed to ensuring that everyone in Florida, especially the state’s children, is prepared for potential disasters. As we enter the 2011 Hurricane Season, residents and visitors are urged to get a plan. Doing so can help ensure your family’s safety should a hurricane impact our state.

William Booher is the director of external affairs for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. He can be reached at

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