WASHINGTON, D.C. - Hurricane season is underway, and families need to be prepared.
"Now is the time to make your plan if you don't have one, or rehearse your old plan," said Jim Platt, deputy director of the Army Protection Division. "And to make sure you've got everything in your kit you need and most importantly to double-check your evacuation route so your family knows where to go -- and not just from your home."
Ensuring families are prepared for emergencies is one of the roles of the Army Protection Division, and it does so through the Ready Army program.
'We realize preparing for an emergency is the responsibility for every Soldier, family member, Department of the Army civilian and contractor," said Jim Platt. "So we want to make sure in the 'Ready Army' program we give them the tools they need to get prepared, to make a kit, and to survive any emergency."
The Ready Army program, which began in September 2008, is designed to prepare the entire Army family at installations and communities across the nation and around the world for all potential hazards, natural and man made.
This year, the Ready Army program is sponsoring a new program, "Prepared Kids," the aim of which is to get younger family members involved in the discussion about how to be ready for disasters.
"To make sure families are involved we are (providing) the kids with some fun activities to get them involved so that they talk to their parents," Platt said. "It opens an avenue so they can talk to their parents and become the impetus for getting the program started."
This year, kids aged 7-18 can participate in the Prepared Kids Competition. The idea is for Army children and teens to share their ideas for preparing for emergencies by creating individual works that highlight preparedness.
Children and teens can submit such things as a poem or song lyrics they have written, a short video, a poster, T-shirt or bookmark design, a personal story of experiencing an emergency, an essay or creative novella, a 30-second public service announcement for radio or television, a preparedness game, a drawing, sculpture or musical piece; or even computer software they have written.
"Anywhere their imagination takes them, they can use to submit to the program, with the intent of helping other kids get ready," Platt said. "When you get the kids involved in this, it opens up a dialogue with parents and gets parents thinking about readiness."
Being prepared for an emergency such as a hurricane, a flood, a fire or a tornado means planning as a family, Platt said. Families must have the tools ready if an emergency happens, having everyone know what the plan is, and having everyone well-versed in how to execute that plan.
"If all the families out there take our advice, get a kit, get prepared and rehearse a plan -- then we have done our job," Platt said. "Then, when a Soldier is deployed, they won't be worried about their families being able to survive in an incident."
Platt said that family readiness for emergencies is important to Army readiness, because a deployed Soldier worried about his family back home might not have his mind on the mission.
"The worst-case scenario is we have a hurricane come in and it comes to one of our bases and we have a brigade combat team from that base that is deployed, and now that Soldier is sitting in Fallujah wondering if their family is okay," Platt said. "If before they left, they went through the rehearsals, then they know their family knows how to get out of the area and knows where to go -- it will take a lot off their minds and allow them to concentrate on what is happening where they are."
Entries will be accepted until Aug. 12, when finalists will be posted on the Ready Army Web site for a one-week open voting session. Winners in each category will be announced during National Preparedness Month in September. Entries can be uploaded via the Ready Army Website at http://www.acsim.army.mil/readyarmy/ra_prep_kids.htm.
More information on the "Ready Army" and the Prepared Kids competition be found at http://ready.army.mil.