WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2016 — As part of September's National Preparedness Month, a top Defense Department official today stressed the importance of individuals and installations being ready for disasters, saying it strengthens collective security.
"I emphasize that national preparedness and military readiness are synonymous," said Robert G. Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense integration and defense support to civil authorities.
In an interview with DoD News, Salesses pointed out how members of the Defense Department are dispersed throughout the country and the world. They face a variety of regional threats, including wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, extreme temperatures and flooding, he remarked.
Individuals, installations and communities should be aware of national security threats as well, he said. Those dangers include the possibility of terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters and cyberattacks.
Preparedness not only protects DoD members, but also enhances the department's ability to meet future threats and challenges, he said.
If individuals and communities are ready for a disaster, Salesses said, then civilians and service members who are supported by those families and communities can deploy and do their jobs.
'Neighbors Helping Neighbors'
This National Preparedness Month observance emphasizes readiness for vulnerable populations, including youth, older adults, people with disabilities and those with other access or functional needs, Salesses said. He highlighted the importance of helping the at-risk populations, while also being prepared yourself.
"As we think about this, it's really neighbors helping neighbors," he said.
Being ready includes knowing local and state resources and response plans, creating a communication plan, coordinating emergency plans with family and neighbors, looking out for those who would need assistance, and having a stock of water, canned goods, medicine and other supplies, he said.
The better prepared the population is, Salesses added, the more capable the Defense Department and its partners are.
Preparedness: A Year-Long Effort
Even though September is designated as National Preparedness Month, Salesses stressed the push for preparedness is a yearlong endeavor. You never know when disaster will strike, he explained, and even if you know a storm is coming, you still can't predict its total impact with certainty. He cited Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the East Coast in 2012, as a case in point.
Salesses commended the efforts of local and state responders during Hurricane Sandy and in other times of crisis. In addition, he applauded the significant role of the Defense Department, including the Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal partners, specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency, during times of disaster.
"We in the Department of Defense think about military readiness all the time and our national security responsibilities," he said.
Salesses, who pointed out that each April is the spring PrepareAthon, said people who would like further information can visit the government's Ready.gov site, or go to FEMA.gov. In addition, he recommended the FEMA smartphone app, which provides weather alerts and safety tips.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)