Every year, the United States observes National Preparedness Month in September to remind Americans to be ready for any disaster — man-made or natural — that could affect them, their homes, communities, or businesses. This month aims to reduce the fallout of large-scale emergencies by preparing every citizen, young and old.
History of National Preparedness Month
The roots of the word disaster can be traced back to Ancient Greek and a word that translates to ‘bad star.’ This is in reference to the idea that bad things happen because of the position of the planets.
A disaster, a calamity, an emergency, is an event that causes widespread human, material, economic, and/or environmental damage. This event can be a short-term or long-term one. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and even terrorist attacks are all classified as such. Whatever the cause, the result of such a disaster devastates societies, changing life as we know it. In some cases, disasters have also been known to change history as we know it.
Some of the worst disasters in American history include the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. A levee burst, causing a torrent. This then took out other levees on the way south, flooding over 165 million acres. This flood resulted in Congress enacting the Flood Control Act the year after this disaster, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was given the responsibility for flood control on the Mississippi River.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created the National Preparedness Month (NPM) three years after the September 11 attacks to encourage every American to plan for emergencies. This month is managed and sponsored by FEMA’s Ready Campaign. They chose September for its historical significance and the fact that the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is in the middle of this month.
FEMA, for its part, has been around since the 1800s — as a legislative act, initially, and was officially launched by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. The September terror attacks spurred the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and FEMA became an agency under this department.
National Preparedness Month timeline
The American Red Cross's response to the Johnstown Flood is the first time this agency has mobilized for a peacetime effort.
An earthquake hits San Francisco and is labeled one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States.
America realizes the need for a centralized emergency management system after repeated major natural disasters in the 1960s and 1970s; President Jimmy Carter signs an executive order establishing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In response to the 9/11 attacks, President Bush creates a new agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS); FEMA is taken under this department.
FEMA establishes the National Preparedness Month (NPM), which is managed and sponsored by FEMA’s Ready Campaign, in conjunction with the Ad Council.
National Preparedness Month FAQs
What is the national preparedness goal?
As per the official website, the goal for national preparedness is, “A secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.”
What are the four phases of emergency preparedness?
There are four steps to emergency preparedness — Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.
What are the three levels of disaster?
Disasters are categorized as minor, major, and catastrophic disasters.
How To Celebrate National Preparedness Month
Get ready for any event
With the incidences of natural disasters rising year after year, it makes sense for every citizen to prepare themselves. Visit official websites like Ready.gov, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about how to reduce risks to life and property in the event of any major disaster.
Run mock safety drills
Test out your safety plan, build a disaster kit with all the essentials, and run your loved ones — especially the kids — through what to do if disaster hits. This can give you a better chance of emerging on the other side with minimal losses.
Support community preparedness
Look around, and we are sure you will find multiple ways to get involved long before disaster strikes. You can volunteer at the Red Cross, for your Neighborhood Watch, at the local fire station, or even visit the Citizen Corps to get a better sense of how your talents can be used.
5 Facts About American Emergency Preparedness
Americans are better prepared now
The 2016 National Household Survey showed 75% of Americans have disaster supplies in their homes.
Yet, many don't have a safety plan
The National Household Survey of 2016 revealed that less than 50% of Americans created a household emergency plan.
Preparedness for businesses
Organizations can become National Preparedness Month Coalition Members; all they have to do is agree to participate in any preparedness activity or event in September.
Natural disasters are on the rise
Injury Facts shows 67,504 weather-related problems — like flash floods, tropical storms, and heatwaves, in 2019.
Insurance against disasters are rising too
The FEMA Annual Preparedness Survey, 2020 says 77% of adults surveyed have homeowners or renters insurance policies, and 22% have flood insurance.
Why We Love National Preparedness Month
Everybody is trained to have a game plan
In the event a disaster hits, every second will count. The lessons — and the safety plan — we create during National Preparedness Month can help every household be better prepared for different disasters.
The community is safer
Learning how to protect yourself is the smartest step you can take to help your community. The more people that are prepared, the faster your community can recover from the effects of the disaster.
We reduce losses … and fear
Fear and panic increase the losses brought on by the disaster. Simple Preparedness activities like floodproofing the house and securing items that can shake loose in the event of earthquakes can reduce the damage.
National Preparedness Month dates