Homeland Security: An Individual Responsibility

By Jamey Perkins Safety Plan

Since the days of Civil Defense and the Cold War, we have recognized that homeland security is an individual responsibility. Governments, businesses, communities and other organizations have a great deal of the responsibility for emergency preparedness and disaster prevention, but your survival in an emergency may well depend on your own preparedness.

Back in the Cold War days, one of the functions of Civil Defense was to educate the public. Literature and community education programs taught people how to protect themselves from the atomic bomb-finding a safe place to go, collecting emergency supplies, securing your home or building a bomb shelter. Bert the Turtle taught children to “Duck and Cover” if they saw the flash of an atomic bomb and to talk to their parents about how their families would respond to an atomic attack. (Though, to be honest, even in those days it was not clear how crawling under our desks and curling up in a ball would protect us from a nuclear holocaust. But then, lest we judge Bert the Turtle too harshly, just a few years ago we thought duct tape and plastic could protect us from various air-borne hazards, forgetting that we actually do need air to survive.)

Today the Department of Homeland Security continues to provide community education to help people prepare for emergency situations. They use literature and community education - and the internet - to teach people how to protect themselves in a variety of emergency situations. They even have a Ready Kids program - this time featuring the Mountain Lion family - who suggest active preparation rather than crawling into your shell. (To view DHS emergency preparedness information)

Homeland Security breaks individual emergency preparedness into three steps:

  • Get a kit
  • Make a plan
  • Be informed.

Get a Kit:

An emergency kit should contain essential supplies to allow your family to survive for at least 3 days in an emergency situation. It includes basic survival need - water, food and warmth. Each family’s survival kit will be different depending on that family’s specific needs. Include the things each member of your family will need, and don’t forget your pets. Ready.gov has checklists for a generic emergency kit plus suggestions for what to include if you have a baby, fragile elderly person, disabled person or pet in your family.

Make a Plan:

Family members are usually separated when disaster occurs. The crux of a family emergency plan is communication. You need a plan for how to contact one another and a place to meet. Homeland Security advises you to make sure every family member has a copy of the communication plan with them at all times, and provides a downloadable wallet card that you can use for that purpose. Your plan should also outline each person’s responsibilities in the event of an emergency.

Be Informed:

Knowing how to respond to a specific emergency is part of the plan. Your family will need a different response for an influenza pandemic than for a hurricane. Homeland Security provides information about how to respond to a wide variety of emergency situations, natural disasters, health emergencies, terrorist attacks and acts of war. It’s also a good idea to know CPR and First Aid.

It may sound cliché, but Homeland Security really does begin at home. By their very nature, emergencies are unpredictable. They can occur at any time. Whether it’s a medical emergency or a fire or bioterrorism or a tsunami, your family’s survival in any emergency or disaster depends on you and on how well prepared you and your family are. You cannot be completely prepared for every potential emergency that could happen. But you can get a kit, make a plan and be informed. And that will improve your chances of surviving whatever happens.


Find College Degrees
Need Stories