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Holding Hands with Elderly PatientEach year, more Americans are caring for a loved one with a chronic condition or disability.  There are as many as 90 million family caregivers in the U.S. today. While administering daily care is extremely important, caregivers must also take steps to help those they care for be prepared for unexpected emergencies. We recently sat down for a question and answer session with Evelyn McFarlane, a caregiver in Georgia, and asked her to tell us how she recommends preparing loved ones for emergencies.

Evelyn is a registered nurse who received special training from the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta to care for her sister, Joan. Joan is a quadriplegic and she relies on help from Evelyn and other caregivers for all daily activities.

Q: Evelyn, how do care for your sister each day?

A: Our day begins with stretching exercises. When in bed, she has to be turned every two hours to prevent skin breakdown. She gets very stiff if left in the same position for a long period of time, then I bathe, dress and feed her. Most days she is placed in her wheelchair, and she goes to therapy two days a week. I make sure her room is kept clean, and I handle the cooking, laundry and shopping. Joan sings in the church choir, so I take her to rehearsals.

Q: Based on your experience, what steps would you recommend Georgia caregivers take to ensure that their loved ones are prepared for emergencies?

A: Keep emergency contact numbers for doctors, the hospital, and close relatives and friends in your Ready kit. Also, keep important documents such as patient directives in a water-tight plastic bag.

Q: Are there any steps specific to Joan’s situation that you take to ensure she’s ready for the unexpected? 

A: I’ve made sure that Joan has a phone with all important contact information that she can control with voice commands.  The other caregivers and I are all educated on how to use this phone, in case Joan needs help operating it.

Following her injury, Joan became a motivational speaker, and now inspires others through her story of survival.

As recommended, make sure you have a designated Ready kit for the one you care for, and make sure it is filled with all medications, supplies phone numbers and documents you would need in the event of a disaster. For more information on preparing Georgians with access or functional needs, visit ready.ga.gov.


tornadoAs we get closer to winter and focus on cold weather, many of us often make the mistake of assuming that the threat of a tornado is all but gone. While it is true that Georgia tornadoes are more likely to occur during warm months in the spring and summer, that doesn’t mean they can’t occur this time of year. As Mother Nature demonstrated over the weekend, tornadoes can strike at any time.

Portions of the Midwest were devastated on Sunday when more than 80 tornadoes ripped through several states. As of Monday morning, six people are dead, hundreds of thousands are without power, and several towns have been severely damaged. 

If this tragedy had struck your city, would you have been ready? Few natural occurrences have the ability to cause such widespread damage so quickly the same way as a tornado. The sudden nature of this type of disaster calls for diligent preparedness. Ready Georgia urges you to stay tuned to local weather forecasts throughout the year, and to take the following measures to ensure your family is prepared for tornadoes at any time:

  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a tornado hazard:

    - A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.
    - A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted in your area, and you need to take shelter immediately.

  • Determine in advance where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning. Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.

    - If you do not have access to a storm cellar or basement, take shelter in the most interior room of your house or building on the lowest floor possible. Vehicles, trailers and mobile homes do not provide good protection.

  • Contact your local emergency management agency to find out what warning system they use and how to register.
  • Severe storms may cause your area to lose power, resulting in limited TV and radio access. Purchase a battery-operated radio, like a NOAA Weather Radio, to ensure access to news and weather coverage.
  • Create a Ready kit for you and your family.

    - A few items to include: non-perishable food, can opener, water, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, extra clothes and medications, blankets, copies of important papers and documents, personal hygiene items, special items for loved ones with functional needs and pets.



The end of October is a special time of year for kids in Georgia. The weather is getting cool, it’s a busy time for activities like sports, and of course there is Halloween. Whether your family celebrates Halloween or likes to go to a fall festival, everyone loves watching kids (and adults) dress up in their favorite costumes and compete in activities for some well-earned candy. As kids get older, they’ll probably enjoy participating in a few scary activities as well.

Halloween celebrates the fantastical side of being scared with its imaginary monsters and made-up worlds. Unfortunately, the real world sometimes can be a scary place, too. You may not have to worry about monsters, but you may experience the effects or a tornado, flood or hurricane. Disasters like these are all too real, and they can be dangerous and legitimately scary.

The best way to combat these threats is by being preparing in advance. Creating a Ready kit, making an emergency plan, and staying informed about the news and weather are all ways to make you and your family more safe and less scared during disasters. If you and your children know where to go, what to do and how to properly equip yourselves, it can make a lot of difference in these situations.

At GEMA, we’re here to help Georgians get prepared, and we’ve found that one of the best ways to reach parents is by teaching the kids first. That’s why we launched the fifth-annual Ready Georgia kids art, essay and video contest. This year, Georgia students used their creative drawing, writing and filming skills to create some fantastic entries around the theme “Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared.”

If you’d like to see how creative Georgia students can be, you can view all the winning essays, videos and pieces of art here. And don’t forget to take their advice and make sure you and your family are prepared this fall.

Pictured in the photo: GEMA Director Charley English as a ‘NOAA/Noah Weather Radio’ and Ready Georgia program manager Lisa Janak-Newman as ‘Sharknado’


UgacropOctober is football season in Georgia, and if you’ve ever been to this state on a Saturday, it’s not hard to figure out that the University of Georgia Bulldogs are the team of choice for many of our residents. October is also National Animal Safety and Protection Month, so we have asked Georgia’s most famous pet, Bulldogs mascot Uga, his thoughts on keeping your pets safe during emergencies.

What unique items do you have in your pet Ready kit?

Well, I always have to keep my spiked collar and some extra jerseys in a safe place—you can NEVER have enough jerseys. Of course I keep at least three days worth of (dog) food and water available, and I won’t go anywhere without my favorite bowl. I have a regular medication, so I keep a three-day supply in my kit.

I keep copies of important documents like my registration, my list of meds and, of course, my University of Georgia student ID card. Everyone knows I enjoy a comfortable bed, so I’ve got an extra sleeping mat as well. And you’ve got to have something to do during emergencies, so I keep some dog treats and toys around to keep me entertained. Last but not least, I pack some bug spray to keep away those annoying yellow jackets.

Why do you think pet emergency preparedness is important?

I’ve been around this state, and I know how passionate Georgians are about their pets, especially their dawgs. But it’s amazing how many will forget to include extra items for their pets when they pack emergency supplies. As all University of Georgia fans know, we’re a part of the family. If you love your pet, make sure you plan ahead to take care of it.

Have you or a loved one experienced an emergency where a Ready kit would have come in handy?

You might know that while I make the trip up to Athens a lot, I actually live with the Seiler family in Savannah. As long-time coastal town residents, we know the importance of being prepared for big storms. We keep a close eye on the weather, especially during hurricane season. But other emergencies, like tornadoes or floods, can happen with little warning, so you’ve got to be prepared.

For more information about preparing your pets for emergencies, click here.

Photo credit: Danny White


superheroLast year, I decided to implement the annual Ready Georgia kids contest as a classroom activity for a group of my elementary students during National Preparedness Month – and it was a fantastic decision! As the technology coordinator for Hannan Academy, I found that the video portion of the contest fit in perfectly with our curriculum. The students really jumped into the project. They began by drafting a script. Then they moved on to props and costume design. Many students even stayed after school to work on the movie. My students grew to understand the technical aspects of creating a movie, but in the process learned how important it is to be prepared, have a plan and stay informed when it comes to emergencies. Several students even went home and created their own Ready kits with their families.

As if we had not already had enough fun creating our video entry, my class won the contest video category with our video, “The Disaster Diverter,” and we received a voucher for a pizza party, courtesy of Papa John’s.

This year’s contest is sure to be a blast too; my students are already brainstorming ideas for our next video venture. I encourage all Georgia elementary teachers and parents to participate in this year’s kids contest with their third, fourth or fifth-graders. Whether your students create art, write an essay or produce a video, it is sure to be a fun and educational project. Through Oct. 18, students can submit entries that creatively reflect the theme – “Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared” – and illustrate their personal experiences or knowledge of disaster preparedness. A team of judges will review the entries and select the top finishers, with first, second and third prizes awarded in the art and essay categories, and one winner selected in the video category.

Emergency preparedness can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, especially with children. The Ready Georgia kids contest makes it easy, and puts a fun spin on a not-so-fun subject. Visit the ReadyKids section of the Ready Georgia website to learn more about this educational contest and to download entry forms.

Shannon Hustick is the technology coordinator for Hannan Academy in Columbus, GA.


From tornadoes and flash floods to wildfires and earthquakes, natural and man-made disasters can strike anywhere and at any time. Are you prepared? Do you have a family communications plan? Have you compiled an emergency ready kit?

KateJayIn observance of National Preparedness Month, we at Verizon Wireless are teaming up with GEMA’s Ready Georgia campaign throughout September to educate Georgians about how best to prepare for severe weather emergencies.

On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7-8, representatives at select Verizon Wireless Communications stores in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, Columbus and Augusta assisted customers with setting up their smartphones for severe weather emergencies, offering a tutorial on free apps such as the Ready Georgia mobile app. In addition, throughout September, Georgians have access to a special digital coupon for 25 percent off an accessory that can be utilized during severe weather emergencies, such as a phone charger or battery, by simply texting “ReadyGeorgia” to 22699.

In the case of an emergency, here are a few tips on how to stay connected:

  • Keep wireless phone batteries fully charged – in case local power is lost – well before warnings are issued.
  • Have additional charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for back-up power.
  • Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.
  • Maintain a family emergency plan that lists emergency contacts and program them into your phone.
  • Limit non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations. Send brief TXT messages rather than voice calls for the same reason.
  • Check weather and news reports available on wireless phone applications when commercial power is out.

Remember, having an established emergency plan can prove crucial in those days after a disaster. Make sure you and your loved ones have a Ready kit and communications plan at home so that if emergency strikes, you have the supplies in place to maintain self-sufficiency for 72 hours. For more information, visit www.ready.ga.gov and the Verizon News Center. Make your emergency game plan today.

Jason Snelling, Atlanta Falcons running back, knows the importance of having a game plan. The Falcons would never hit the field without being prepared, and you should never go without being prepared either. Check out his message to Georgia families.

Kate Jay is public relations manager for the Georgia/Alabama Region of Verizon Wireless.


Young businessman acting like a super hero and tearing his shirt

This weekend, you’ll be able to spot Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and thousands of other super heroes mingling around downtown Atlanta as Dragon*Con comes to town. The annual Dragon*Con convention draws more than 50,000 attendees to the Peach State, many of whom come dressed as their favorite comic book and science fiction characters. It’s quite a show, and viewing the variety of costumes on display at Dragon*Con’s Saturday parade has become a Labor Day weekend tradition for many Atlantans.

With so many super heroes close by, Georgia residents might feel a little safer than normal this weekend. After all, saving citizens in distress is one of the primary duties in the super hero job description. Is there a more iconic image than Superman saving Lois Lane from a burning building?

However, Superman is usually only in town once a year, so what’s an innocent citizen to do if disasters strike the remaining 51 weeks of the year? At GEMA, we recommend following the Dark Knight’s motto to always be prepared. Knowing what to do and having the right tools on hand before a disaster can help you avoid situations where you would need a super hero’s help.

With National Preparedness Month starting on Sunday, here are a few common super hero rescue situations that could have been avoided if the Lois Lanes of the world knew what to do beforehand:

  • Burning Buildings: As mentioned, people always seem to be having fire safety issues in comics. To avoid needing a web parachute from Spider-Man, make sure you have working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, and learn the evacuation routes at your home and workplace. More fire safety tips.
  • Flooded Neighborhoods: Another common place to find hapless comic book characters is on their roofs after a flood. To limit your risk in real life, investigate your area’s flood risk, be prepared to evacuate, and remember to never drive through standing water. More flood safety tips.
  • Lightning Strikes: People get electrocuted a lot in comics with varying effects, but in real life a lightning strike will not grant you super powers. Since Storm from the X-Men isn’t around to control the weather, it’s important to stay informed about severe storms. Also, remember the 30/30 rule: if you hear thunder within 30 seconds of a lightning strike, head indoors and stay there for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. More thunderstorm safety tips.
  • Terrorist Attacks: Of course every super hero is known for defeating bad guys, but in reality, every person has the potential to be a hero. It’s important to learn about potential threats and know that by making a simple phone call, you may help thwart a terrorist attack. More tips about preparing for man-made disasters.

Getting prepared before disasters will not only keep you and your family safer, it also eases the burden for the real heroes: our first responders. This weekend, take some time to get prepared.


Last fall, I was invited to participate in Ready Georgia’s Teacher and Parent Toolkit pilot program. As a long-time proponent of teaching emergency preparedness lessons in the classroom, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to test out the campaign’s lesson plans and activities. With my fifth graders, I used the family communications lesson plan, which required students to go home and discuss an emQ bryantergency communication plan with their parents. The lesson plan was extremely easy to implement and ideal for teachers who always wonder what to do with small 20 to 30-minute blocks of time. It also tied in perfectly with our fifth grade Earth Science standards, which cover constructive and destructive forces.

The Ready Georgia Teacher and Parent Toolkit provides resources to help encourage children (and their families) to prepare for the unexpected. Although it is designed to complement the third, fourth and fifth grade health and/or science curriculum, it can be used by any group or organization that works with children.

This fall, Ready Georgia is encouraging back-to-school preparedness among all Georgia school communities and I strongly encourage parents and teachers to take advantage of the campaign’s kid-friendly resources. In addition to the toolkit lesson plans, there are other easy ways to implement preparedness during the school year:

·         Make it a priority at the beginning of each school year.

o   Teachers, on the day your school completes its first fire drill, send home an email or a flyer that helps parents familiarize themselves with the protective actions schools may take during an emergency.

o   Parents, ask your child’s teacher about the school’s notification procedures at the beginning of each year and ensure your emergency contact information is current.

·         Give a short presentation at PTA/PTO meetings.

o   Use resources in the Teacher and Parent Toolkit to educate parents. This also allows parents the opportunity to ask questions and give input.

·         Publish emergency preparedness information and tips in the school/grade/classroom newsletter. 

o   Whether it comes out weekly or once a semester, it will give parents a chance to practice disaster drills or learn more about emergency preparedness steps with their children.

Quiana Bryant is a fifth grade teacher at Kimberly Elementary School in Atlanta.


beachIt’s the middle of summer, and prime time for vacation season. Unfortunately, it’s also peak season for some natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes and extreme heat. If you are about to hit the beach condo or make a cross-country RV trip, here are a few steps to take to stay prepared on the go:

  • Stay informed: For many of us, vacation is the time when we unplug from our day-to-day routine. While this is a great way to help yourself relax, it also means you’re less likely to be aware of what’s going on. Be sure to check the local weather at your travel destinations, and keep your phone handy so you don’t miss any wireless emergency alerts and can check the Ready Georgia app. If you want nothing to do with your smartphone or the news on vacation, pack a battery-powered NOAA Weather radio, which is the best way to stay informed.
  • Prepare your home: Before you leave, it’s a good idea to take some simple steps to make sure your home is in good condition when you get back. Turn off your lights and fans and unplug your appliances to prevent damage from lightning. If you like to keep a light or two on to make it seem like someone is home, consider using timers so they’re not on all day.
  • Prepare your yard: If you have a yard, scan it to look for potential hazards during a storm. Put away or tie down any loose objects that could get picked up by extreme winds, and make sure your trees are healthy and well-trimmed.
  • Make a plan to stay in contact: Send your itinerary to family or friends who may need to get in touch, especially if you’re heading to a remote area. Make sure they know how to reach you.
  • Pack a travel Ready kit: It’s a good idea to keep a travel Ready kit handy at all times, but especially on long trips. Much like a regular Ready kit, your travel supplies should include extra food and water, a flashlight, batteries and a first aid kit. In addition, consider packing a booster cable, emergency lights or flares and extra prescription medication if needed.
  • Know your surroundings: If you are traveling to one destination, it’s a good idea to get a physical map of the area in case your phone or GPS dies. It’s also important to be familiar with evacuation routes, particularly if you’re heading to the coast.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and, regardless of where you are, make sure you prepare, plan and stay informed!


sgranberyGeorgia has been inundated with storms recently, and many homes have been subjected to severe winds and deluged with rain. These wet and windy conditions can lead to dangerous situations if you have trees around your home.

Healthy shade trees are a great asset, giving you a beautiful yard, increasing your property value and reducing air conditioning costs by as much as 30 percent. However, these same trees can pose serious danger during severe weather, especially if they aren’t healthy. While fully assessing tree risk requires special training and experience by a certified arborist, there are some simple things you can do to get some peace of mind and determine if you need to seek a professional assessment:

  • Start with a self-survey of each of your trees to identify the obvious risks, and remove any diseased, dead or loose branches. English ivy and other invasive vines should be removed to help inspect the base of the tree for cavities and fruiting bodies, such as mushrooms, which indicate root disease.
  • During sidewalk replacement, utility work, or other excavation, avoid cutting roots or keep root damage to a minimum. Without a strong and healthy root system, a tree could be uprooted during a storm and cause damage. Regular watering, mulching and ongoing tree care is important to maintaining healthy trees in your yard. Trees that are not properly maintained or are stressed can quickly become major liabilities during severe weather.
  • Should you lose a tree in a storm, it is important to plant healthy new trees to provide benefits for future generations. When purchasing new trees, be sure to select trees from the nursery that appear healthy and ask a nursery employee about proper care.

The Georgia Forestry Commission has a host of resources that can help you find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about trees at Ask The Arborist. You can also find a list of arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) who can conduct fee-based site visits to determine tree care needs.

For more information about preparing for thunderstorms and other types of severe weather, check out ready.ga.gov.

Susan Granbery is the Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator for the Georgia Forestry Commission, located in Stone Mountain, Ga.


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