Susan Riedy is being honored as an Individual and Community Preparedness Champion of Change.
A quick web search on personal preparedness bodes over 18,000,000 results. Information is readily available to Americans who want to get prepared for any emergency. Yet, three years ago, when surveyed, only 17% of Albany County residents said they were prepared. So why aren’t more of us prepared?
Navigating through all of that information can be daunting. Finding out what is most relevant to each of us is challenging. Also, many just don’t believe a large-scale emergency will ever happen to them, but I’ve always believed that it’s better to be safe than sorry. With this in mind, Albany County Citizen’s Corp (ACCC) embarked upon a multidimensional approach to increasing individual and community preparedness. Recognizing the importance of input from the various communities that make up Albany County, ACCC reached out to service providers and communal leaders for help in developing strategies to improve preparedness. With the assistance of these dedicated individuals, ACCC increased preparedness among vulnerable populations and ensured meaningful and culturally appropriate information not only existed but was also readily available. I found that, while looking at the big picture is almost always valuable, viewing things from a smaller lens allows us to focus on the individual and unique needs of the many populations that make up our community.
I believe that successful preparedness rests on drawing upon the expertise of partners who know their communities better than we do. This was seen in the work we did with the Burmese community. A team from Albany County Department of Health and Sheriff’s Office created a preparedness presentation incorporating images and concepts that were identifiable to the Burmese population. University of Albany School of Public Health staff reviewed the presentation to ensure cultural sensitivity and to coordinate its English-Karen translation. The American Red Cross added resiliency materials. And at last, the presentation was well-received. Working together, we provided a specialized training to a vulnerable population while strengthening relationships not only with Burmese community but also with our partner organizations.
ACCC also strives to develop innovative and fun programs that call attention to National Preparedness Month (NPM). In 2013, ACCC collaborated with ShopRite to host a NPM cook-off between Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy and Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr. These celebrity chefs were each challenged to create a main dish and dessert using only non-perishable items found in their go-kits. Shoppers received family preparedness educational resources and completed a preparedness quiz for a chance to win a go-kit. Partnering with community leaders and a major grocery chain caught the attention of local media, which helped us further promote our message of preparedness to residents.
The task of preparing our communities often seems monumental. But our small lens approach has yielded a 10% increase in preparedness among our residents in the last 3 years. We hope our initiatives help foster creativity and confidence in emergency preparedness partners across the country, and help prepare our country for emergencies one person at a time.
Susan Riedy is the Senior Public Health Planner at the Albany County Department of Health. She directs the planning, implementation, and evaluation of activities associated with the Albany County Citizen Corps.