Editor's Note: This was originally posted on The Department of Homeland Security blog.
The devastating storms and tornadoes that have swept across Missouri, Alabama and other parts of our nation this week are a vivid reminder that disasters of all kinds can strike at any time, and it is vital that all of us, including members of our nation's emergency management team and the American public, are prepared to act.
Yesterday, I traveled to St. Louis to tour the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which suffered severe damage when tornadoes struck the region last weekend. During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the heroic TSA workers who were on duty during the tornadoes and played a key role in helping the airport re-open quickly. Additionally, FEMA teams were already on-site to assess the damage and assist with the process of getting the airport fully functional again. At my direction, FEMA also has deployed personnel to the state’s emergency operation center to help coordinate assistance and work side-by-side with its state and local partners.
While in St. Louis, I also joined Secretary Arne Duncan and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon at Carnahan High School of the Future to participate in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut--the largest-ever, multi-state earthquake drill to be held in the United States, and the first major drill to take place along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which was the site of one of the worst earthquakes in U.S. history nearly 200 years ago. In total, 2,644 K-12 schools and 117 colleges participated in the ShakeOut, along with businesses, local, state and federal government agencies, child care centers, and many other organizations. The exercise will go a long way in helping us be prepared in the event of a major earthquake.
In light of recent events from Japan to Missouri to Alabama, we recognize that preparedness and education are vital to our ability to respond to unforeseeable events like earthquakes, storms and other natural disasters. Every individual plays an important role in building a national culture of readiness and resilience and we encourage every American to learn what they can do to help their families, businesses and communities be prepared and stay safe in any emergency.
Today, we stand with the communities affected by these terrible storms, in Missouri, Alabama and in other states across our nation. We offer them our help and our prayers as they work to rebuild and recover.
Janet Napolitano is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.