Pledge to be prepared, disasters can happen to you

Approaching tornado

If you're like many people you probably think a natural disaster will never happen in your town. You say things like, "I've lived here for X number of years and it hasn't happened yet."

Or if you're like me, you probably think it won't affect you if disaster does strike your town.

It was Friday, May 29, 1998, I was finishing up sophomore year in high school. I woke to get ready for school. I turn on the TV and notice a scrolling list of school closings, including mine. A strong line of storms moved through the area overnight, bringing hurricane-force winds and causing widespread power outages. Not at my home, so I had a day off school with no inconvenience whatsoever.

What if we had been one of the families to lose their home or had been without power for 10 days? I can definitely say we wouldn't have been prepared.

Fast forward two days—May 31, 1998. I wake to get ready for church. I noticed our power had at least popped off because our clocks reset. I looked out our front window and saw about 30 trees down in our driveway. I turn on the TV to find out that another line of storms went through, bringing even stronger wind gusts (upwards of 130 mph) and a lot more destruction. Condo complexes near Lake Michigan were leveled, trees fell through homes, roofs were ripped off buildings and RVs flipped over at popular campgrounds. The headline of the local newspaper, The Muskegon Chronicle, read: "One in a century, twice in two days." But other than not making it to church, my family was unaffected. And my dad made out with a lot of firewood.

That's as close as I've come to a natural disaster. Because my family was lucky, I'll admit that I'm a little indifferent when people say "it can happen to you." But what if we had been one of the families to lose their home or had been without power for 10 days? I can definitely say we wouldn't have been prepared. At that time, we had no generator, no stockpiled food supply, and our water came from a well, so if the power was out, so was our water.

That's why September is National Preparedness Month and FEMA is asking you to pledge to be prepared for the unexpected. Be informed, make a plan, build a kit, and know what you and your family will do should a disaster affect your family tomorrow.

I'm making the pledge. I will make sure my house if prepared if winter storms, tornadoes, floods, or even another derecho hits our community. Consider doing it too because your safety is important to us.

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