CHARLESTON – West Virginians are known for coming together to support each other in times of need – whether to help communities recover from a disaster or through statewide volunteer projects as part of Day to Serve.

In September, West Virginians joined more than 14 million Americans across the country to participate in preparedness events as part of this year's National Preparedness Month and National PrepareAthon Day.

The Mountain State, like most, is no stranger to disaster. Our state has endured floods, damaging storms and other crises, and it's important that we take steps to be prepared for any disaster or emergency that comes our way.

Being prepared is critical, and just a few simple steps can benefit you, your family and your workplace. Build an emergency kit that includes a three-day supply of water, food and other necessary items. Establish an evacuation plan, so your family knows where to go both inside and outside of your neighborhood if an emergency arises. It's also helpful to learn about emergency planning for your community or school.

In any emergency situation, communication is key. If a disaster strikes while your family is separated by work or school, consider how you plan to stay in contact during an emergency. For many of us, family includes more than our immediate loved ones. Preparedness planning should not only include your family, but household pets as well. In addition, preparedness planning should take into account prescription medications, financial records and any other important materials.

Last month, our Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management worked with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a statewide test of a new emergency alert system. In addition, dozens of public employees volunteered at the state Capitol for a practice run of the Closed Point of Dispensing project. Known as Closed POD, this initiative would and can provide needed medicine in the event of a public health emergency.

These efforts continue across West Virginia. In Marion County, more than 40 organizations participated in a preparedness expo hosted by the Greater Fairmont Council of Churches. In Wood County, Lowe's partnered with the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Community Emergency Response Team to provide one-day special prices on emergency kit items like tools, flashlights and batteries.

Preparing for disasters and emergencies is everyone's responsibility. As we conclude National Preparedness Month, I encourage all West Virginians be mindful of preparedness efforts not only in September, but every month of the year.

To learn more about preparedness planning, emergency kits and how to get involved, visit www.ready.wv.gov and www.ready.gov.

Tomblin is West Virginia's governor.

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