In the event of an emergency, readiness can mean the difference between a swift response and a lengthy regret. Ready Navy, the U.S. Navy’s emergency preparedness program, is designed to increase the ability of Navy personnel and their families to better plan for and react to an emergency situation should it occur. According to the official Ready Navy website, emergency planning empowers the individual and their family by saving lives, property and time, ultimately reducing stress on individuals and their families during an already stressful event.
“A plan provides a road map during a crisis which saves time, and also provides measures for protecting property and other resources to include our most precious resource, our families,” said Sigmund E. Evans, installation emergency manager for Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. “Ready Navy provides the information needed for proper preparation of emergencies.”
Evans stressed the need for planning for the unexpected, as inclement weather can quickly evolve into an emergency situation with little or no warning, citing the blizzard of 2011.
“Area motorists did not expect, nor were they fully prepared, to deal with the elements at that rate,” said Evans. “No one expected to be stuck in their cars on the highway, some for up to 13 hours. This is just one example of a situation that many could have avoided by being prepared and having a good emergency plan.”
For many servicemembers, being ready for the unexpected, such as a sudden deployment, is a part of their job. Robert Klebahn, regional program manager for the Fleet and Family Support Program, suggests taking that mentality and applying it to life at home.
“In the military, we constantly practice and drill our capabilities to be ready. In some of our services we are mandated to constantly be ready to deploy,” said Klebahn. “So when we start thinking about preparedness, it’s similar to that. But in a [local] disaster, you have to worry about family members. It becomes more personal if you have family and children that rely on you. You not only plan for you, but for them as well. “
Klebahn said that by being physically prepared, staying informed and exercising proper planning, individuals and their families can take a more proactive role in their lives should an emergency occur. This in turn can lead to less stress in the event of a natural or man-made emergency, effectively reducing fear by reducing uncertainty.
“[Having an emergency plan] allows them to reduce the fear level that something bad might happen to them or their family members or their community by understanding what the everyday risks are from natural disasters or man-made disasters,” said Klebahn.
This can be especially helpful when considering the effect that stress and fear can have on family members.
“The [effects of stress and fear] we are most familiar with are the physical effects such as trembling hands, pounding heart, rapid breathing...difficulty sleeping and racing thoughts,” said Ava Imhof, counseling and advocacy supervisor at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. “But there are also emotional or psychological effects, such as shock, difficulty thinking clearly, feeling helpless.”
Imhof said that while these are normal reactions to fear, planning can help take some of the uncertainty out of a situation.
“It can reduce [stress and fear] and make it more manageable for you and your family,” said Imhof. “There is shock and difficulty thinking clearly during an emergency, and what is available to us is the information that is more deeply ingrained in us during times of non-emergency. It can help make the difference between reacting to an emergency and responding more effectively to an emergency.”
According to Ready Navy, disasters and other emergency events can be especially frightening to children. By including them in the planning process, parents and guardians can ease those fears. Klebahn and Imhof both suggest talking to children calmly about an event before it happens, as well as involving them in the planning process, such as by packing an emergency kit with them.
“Start looking at the things they might want to include in the [emergency] backpack, and then have them help in assembling the backpack,” said Klebahn. “And you can ask the kids, ‘Do you think we should pack your teddy bear? How about a flashlight, or an emergency blanket? And some water?’ That’s the way I would approach it: in a non-threatening way where we’re just planning for the future.”
For more tips and guidance on being informed, including family preparedness activities, visit http://www.ready.navy.mil.