HHS encourages participation in PrepareAthon

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services encouraged organizations and people throughout the U.S. on Friday to participate in the country's first PrepareAthon! National Day of Action on April 30.

Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response with the HHS, said the new campaign is meant to increase every community's ability to withstand disasters. She said that despite the high number of fatalities and injuries caused from natural disasters annually, most Americans remain unprepared for emergencies.

"In 2012, natural disasters caused more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries," Lurie said. "In the 2012 Federal Emergency Management Agency National Survey, only 39 percent of people reported having a household emergency plan, which included instructions for household members on where to go and what to do in an emergency."

The PrepareAthon! will focus on teaching individuals how to protect their families, their co-workers and themselves and how to participate in community plans for emergencies. The campaign will highlight simple and specific steps that can be taken to increase preparedness for local disasters.

"When we prepare and practice for an emergency in advance of the event, it makes a real difference in the whole community's ability to take immediate and informed action," Lurie said. "In turn, this enables everyone impacted to recover more quickly. In addition, participating in drills, exercises, and trainings help establish brain patterns that support quick and effective action during an emergency."

PrepareAthon! provides instructions for educational discussions and simple drills for various disasters. The instructions are meant to help individuals understand which disasters could happen in the community, what to do to stay safe and how to take action to prepare and fortify the community for disaster.

"Building and sustaining resilience is a shared responsibility," Lurie said. "It takes a whole community working together to prepare for, respond to, and recover effectively from the destructive forces of nature and other emergencies."

Lurie asked organizations to plan an event for April 30 and register it on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's website.