Arkansas Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities

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September is National Preparedness Month

Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. 

By Jon Taylor

I grew up in New England, bouncing between Massachusetts and Maine until I was 30. In the Northeast, emergency preparedness for most people focused on being ready for snowstorms, Nor’easters (BIG snowstorms), and Blizzards (REALLY BIG snowstorms). Some of the preparation was similar to how we prepare in Arkansas, batteries, flashlights, full gas tanks, possibly a generator, and of course, bread and milk. The major difference was the season – New England winters are as cold as Arkansas summers are hot. So, firewood, full heating oil tanks, snow tires, and hopefully a snowblower were part of the prep as well. The other major difference was the nature of snowstorms: you could see them coming well in advance. To me weather disasters in New England happened in slow motion. Not so much in Arkansas.

My first tornado season was in Jonesboro, during the spring of 2002. I had no idea what the difference was between a tornado watch and a tornado warning (I still mix them up). I would panic every time it rained, and I drove my wife Tracy crazy. She grew up in Arkansas and knew what to expect during storm season. Eventually, she told me she would let me know if I needed to worry. After a few years I more or less got used to it. Then we moved to Vilonia…

Wednesday April 11, 2014. Tracy, our three children, and I were home watching the weather. And we heard the phrase I had always been dreading: “If you live in Vilonia, seek shelter now”. I looked at her, she looked at me, and she said, “We are going to the shelter at the (Vilonia) Elementary School right now!”. In nine years, we had never gone to a shelter. We loaded up the kids, and very quickly made it to the shelter (I was doing 1,000 miles an hour in a minivan). After Vilonia PD gave the all clear we drove home. There was no power at that point, but on our side of town, everything looked fine. When we got up the next morning, things were far from fine. The town center looked like a war zone. Most of the business, and innumerable homes were just gone. Seven people died that night. My family was one of the lucky ones.

Since that day, I have taken being prepared far more seriously. When storm season starts, I get my “Go Bag” ready. A change of clothes, cash, and a charged battery back-up for my phone. And before I go to bed, I charge my phone and have my wallet and keys by the door if we have to leave quickly. That’s what works for me. If you or a loved one has a disability, your Go Bag may have a bit more. Medications, prescriptions, communication tools, and mobility devices have to be factored in the packing process.

To learn more about being ready for a crisis (not just tornados!) please look through the Emergency Preparedness section of this website. There is a link to our Emergency Preparedness Checklist, a video on how to build a Go Bag along with other tips, and more great resources to help you through a natural disaster.

When it comes to emergencies, I’ve learned to embrace this maxim: Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

Jon Taylor

About the Arkansas Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities

The Council is a federally funded state agency that promotes integration, inclusion and independence for Arkansans with developmental disabilities. Council members are self-advocates, relatives and/or caregivers of individuals with DD, state agency directors, and representation from nonprofit and private organizations. The Council works to encourage self-advocacy; to remove barriers to information, services and support; to advocate for policy changes; to develop and support coalitions; and to educate community leaders. For more information about the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and its mission, browse more pages on this website, or call 501-682-2897. Follow the Council on Facebook and Twitter @gcddar. You can also find Arkansas GCDD on YouTube.