"On any given day, Mother Nature can break. You have to be prepared to be your own first responder when a natural disaster strikes." - Lt. General Honoré
Lt. General Russel Honoré (retired) served in the U.S. Army for more than 37 years. During his distinguished service to our country, the media dubbed him the "Category 5 General" because of his leadership during a variety of natural disasters, most notably Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As the head of Task Force Katrina, Honoré spearheaded a massive relief effort in the city of New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. He witnessed, first-hand, the physical and emotional destruction of a natural disaster and now uses his voice to encourage a "culture of preparedness" in the U.S.
We recently caught up with General Honoré to get his perspective on how people can prepare for the 2016 hurricane season and what it means to be your own "first responder."
"In this country, we spend more time preparing for the football season than we do the hurricane season," Honoré noted. "We need to get on the left side of the disaster. Instead of spending all of our resources on the recovery and cleanup, we need to spend more time on preparedness. How you survive and recover from a storm directly relates to how prepared you are."
As part of being prepared, Honoré recommends that people take proactive measures to be their own "first responders."
"People also need to understand that they are their own first responders. During a disaster, it's going to take time for emergency responders to get to you and your family. You need to take steps now - before the storm hits - to protect your loved ones. If a major disaster hits like Katrina, it may take days or weeks for responders to assist you."
To get prepared for the upcoming storm season, Honoré recommends accessing your risks by addressing the following questions. Do you live along the coastline or a flood plain area? Do you have people in your home with special needs (children, elderly, infirmed, etc.)? Do you operate a home-based business? If you answer yes to any of these questions, storm preparedness should be a top priority. However, natural and man-made disasters can strike anytime, anywhere in the country, so it's important for everyone to be prepared. Here are some things to consider:
Create an early evacuation plan that includes the route you plan to take and where you plan to meet family members if you become separated.
Store 3-5 days' worth of water and non-perishable food in a dry, easy-to-access area in your home.
Create a storm kit and fill it with the following items: flashlight(s), weather radio, batteries, medications, money, water, non-perishable food, emergency contact numbers, etc.
Install a backup generator on your home in the event that you have to shelter in place during the storm.
"The number one issue people face in the aftermath of a storm is power," Honoré said. "When you lose power, it sets our society back at least 100 years. It cuts off our communication; it inhibits our access to safe food and water; it impacts our comfort (air conditioning); and creates sanitation issues. The fastest way to recovery is when people have access to safe, reliable power."
General Honoré is one of the country's leading proponents for residential standby power and has a standby generator connected to his home.
"When you have your own power, you can take care of yourself and your family during a disaster. It's much easier and comfortable to shelter at home versus evacuating to a relative's house or hotel. Plus, you have the ability to participate in the ultimate human experience - and that's assisting your neighbors or saving someone's life. Roughly 25 percent of our population is elderly, disabled or poor, which means they can't prepare for emergencies. As a result, we need to help them prepare. We need to be a lifeline for those most in need."
For General Honoré, being prepared impacts everyone around the country - not just those in hurricane zones. An aging electrical grid as well as man-made disasters and cyber attacks put everyone at risk.
"Despite recent disasters, there's a lot of complacency in the country today," Honoré said. "People feel like it can't happen to them. We have to create a culture of preparedness in this country - and that starts with the individual."