Let's stop worrying and start working to be better prepared

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Remember the Millennium Bug?

Back before the turn of the century, some experts were worried that computers, which were playing a bigger and bigger part in our everyday lives, wouldn't be able to deal with the year 2000.

Programmed to deal only with double-digits, they would interpret "00" as "1900" and chaos would result.

Millions of dollars were spent reprogramming and preparing for something that never happened.

We shouldn't have become complacent, however. At the same time we preparing to welcome in a new century, terrorists plotting a bombing attack were caught trying to bring explosives across the Canadian border.

Nineteen months later, they succeeded in an attack so horrible that few could have imagined it.

Today, a day after the five-year anniversary of September 11, is a good time to turn our grief into resolve and positive action that can make a difference when the next unimaginable crisis arises.

Monday afternoon, Gov. Dave Heineman issued a proclamation designating September as Preparedness Month in Nebraska, and encouraged all Nebraskans to develop their own emergency response plans.

Nebraska has been a leader in the effort, pulling together government agencies, health care providers, first responders, educators and others to plan and prepare for emergency.

"We are now beginning to drill down and look beyond the obvious large-scale targets and talk in serious terms about helping and encouraging ordinary citizens to prepare for an emergency," Heineman said.

The governor is correct.

In McCook and Red Willow County, officials have spent years preparing emergency plans and conducting regular drills to plan for any possible contingency. The proposed new jail and dispatch center was planned, in part, to coordinate and improve public safety by moving our community's nerve center away from the railroad, a possible source of a dangerous chemical spills or other emergencies.

What becomes of that effort depends in part on the will of the voters and the resolve of county and city leadership.

But there is much individuals can and should do to improve our personal safety and that of our families.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Preparedness Month Coalition offers the following tips:

* Prepare an emergency kit capable of supporting your and your family for at least three days in the event of an emergency. It should include basic items such as water, food, a battery-powered radio, flashlight and first-aid kit.

* Plan in advance what you and your family will do, including communications and evacuation.

* Find out about potential threats to your community and the appropriate responses to each.

* Get involved, by taking first aid and emergency response training.

* Make special preparations to help family members or friends with disabilities.

Let's stop worrying and instead do something to be prepared for the next emergency.

More ideas are available at http://ready.gov.

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