As a child, I have a vivid memory of being in a tornado that took our outdoor shed, all of the possessions inside, and left our neighborhood in disarray with fallen trees and destruction throughout. At the time, my father was working nights. My mother, my siblings and I crawled into the space under our staircase with nothing but a flashlight and a lot of praying. When we came out of cover, still uncertain as to whether it was safe, we saw what we believed to be our roof remains spread throughout the yard and the neighbor’s large oak tree on the ground blocking the street in front of our driveway, instead of falling on our house.
At the time, the only emergency preparedness item we had was a flashlight. If we could have had a Ready kit on hand prepared with water, food, a first aid kit, a weather radio and other important supplies, it would have made a huge difference.
Most of you know that we are at risk for this exact type of scenario, but many of us do not take the time to prepare a kit and a communications plan in advance. A few minutes of preparation can make a big difference in our safety.
The good news for our Hispanic community is that we are receiving the message. According to the latest research from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security’s (GEMA) Ready Georgia campaign, the number of our Hispanic residents who are fully prepared for emergencies doubled in the past year. In addition, we are more likely to be at least somewhat prepared for an emergency than the rest of Georgia.
However, we still have a long way to go. Right now, most of Georgia’s Hispanic population only has enough supplies on hand for 36 hours, but officials recommend keeping enough supplies to survive for 72 hours without assistance. In addition, if you have elderly family members, pets or people with special needs in your home, it’s important to take careful consideration for them.
And it’s not just families that need to be prepared, it’s businesses as well. As you know, here in Georgia, we have a thriving Hispanic business community, and maintaining business continuity during emergency situations is essential to each company’s well-being. For instance, last year’s ice storm affected 70 percent of the state, but many businesses with remote work capabilities were able to stay productive as employees logged in from home.
A recent study showed that 52 percent of businesses experienced an unforeseen event that halted productivity. Small- to medium-sized businesses are the most vulnerable, and at least one-fourth that close because of disaster never reopen.
To make sure this doesn’t happen at your place of business, create a business continuity plan and make sure you have all your bases covered.
For more information about preparing your workplace or your home for disasters, visit Ready Georgia’s website at ready.ga.gov, which is equipped with Google Translator for Spanish speakers. Listo.gov is also a great resource.
I’m encouraging everyone I know to take some time this month to get prepared. Don’t forget, it only takes one event to devastate our community, but being prepared makes us our own first responders and empowers individuals, families and businesses.
Tisha Tallman is the President and CEO of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.