September is National Preparedness Month. Government agencies, including the Kern County Fire Department, will be encouraging residents to be prepared to survive disaster events. Government agencies can only inform and encourage - preparedness starts with you!

Many types of disasters can happen in Kern County, but no one can predict with certainty when they may occur. We must be prepared for wildfires, flash floods, wind events, mud and rockslides, long term power outages and earthquakes. I don’t imagine our Ridgecrest or Inyokern neighbors planned to spend the Independence Day weekend dealing with a major earthquake, but real-world disaster events are not influenced by social calendars.

Most of us felt the ground shaking during the Ridgecrest earthquakes. Based on local media reports that major retailers sold out of bottled water the following day, it seems apparent that many Kern County residents were not prepared before the earthquake. Only a small percentage of the American public are self-described as “very prepared” for a natural disaster. Yet, preparing for disasters at an individual or family level isn’t complicated and doesn’t have to be expensive. Planning is the key to a successful outcome.

Make sure your family understands the actions they must take to stay safe during a disaster. A guide for preparing for disasters of all types can be found at www.ready.gov/be-informed.

When developing a plan with your family, decide where you would reunite if you couldn’t return to your home by answering these questions:

What is my family/household communication plan?

How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?

What is my shelter plan?

What is my evacuation route?

Build a group text to quickly communicate with family members. Identify an out-of-area, trusted contact to call or text if local phone calls are disrupted and have every family member carry that information in written form. This contact can serve as a “check-in” for family members, relaying information to each member that calls with the location, condition and planned movements of the other family members.

Consider taking a class from the Red Cross to learn first aid techniques. In a crisis, the difference between survival or tragedy might be decided in the first few moments and learning these life-saving skills could be the deciding factor.

Store at least a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food in your home. Ensure you have at least a five-day supply of any needed medications. Know how to turn off your utilities (gas, water and electricity). Store copies of important documents on a flash drive. Plan for long term electrical power interruptions, especially if a family member has a critical medical need, such as an oxygen generator. Dedicate a “go bag” to each of your vehicles with water, high energy non-perishable snacks, first aid supplies, a flashlight, some cash, a means to charge a cellular phone, a light jacket, a medication list (with doses) and some good shoes for walking in case you are forced to leave your vehicle. Backpacks work best for this purpose, as they leave your hands free and are less fatiguing than carrying a bag by hand.

Don’t forget your four-legged family members! Microchip your pets for reunification in case they become lost.

Disasters may strike at any time. Will you be ready?

Please register to receive free public safety alerts and warnings at www.ReadyKern.com.

Kern County Fire Department Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Services David Witt was appointed as fire chief in June 2019. He has overseen the department’s Air Operations and Wildland divisions, as well as Fire Captain promotions, and has nearly 20 years of experience in the Kern County Fire Department.