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Are you ready for the next ice storm?

If you had to go to an emergency shelter right now because of a natural or man-made disaster, where would you go? If you can’t answer this question, perhaps there’s more work to be done in preparing the region for the next perfect storm.

The December 2008 ice storm tested the emergency preparedness of our towns in the Monadnock region, our emergency services personnel, as well as each of us individually. The storm took down power lines, interrupted commerce, and left many of us without heat, hot water and the ability to communicate with others for as many 14 days, and even longer in some areas. Even town officials found it difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to communicate with each other as well as other parts of the state.

Some were forced to leave their homes in search of shelter, while others hunkered down by their woodstoves, waiting out the power outage and treating the event somewhat like an extended snow day. But each of us, not doubt, has a story or two to tell.

Five years later, there have been improvements in communication systems and technology in our towns, but just how well are municipal officials and residents really communicating? That’s a question that still needs to be answered.

Many of our towns have implemented reverse-911 systems that allow officials to get the word out about disaster events and the steps being taken to rectify them. Plus, most of us have phones with texting and Internet capabilities, which means there’s access to the outside world, even when the power is out, just so long as the batteries are charged.

We may have the ability to better communicate in case of emergency, but it’s incumbent upon both emergency services personnel and residents to share preparedness plans ahead of time, too.

When residents are under-prepared to weather events, like long-term power outages and the like, it places an undue burden on firefighters, police and public works employees, as well as volunteer Red Cross workers. In some cases, the lack of communication about preparedness alone could put emergency workers in harm’s way.

This anniversary of the ice storm, we hope, will not only be an opportunity for a trip down memory lane, but also a reminder of our joint responsibilities when it comes to emergency readiness.

The American Red Cross offers tips about getting fit for disasters and weather events at Talking with your town’s emergency services personnel is a good idea, too.

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