A deranged young man walks into an elementary school and fatally shoots 20 children and six adults.Superstorm Sandy rages up the Atlantic Coast, carving a path of flooding and destruction. Tornadoes plow through Oklahoma, ripping apart schools and homes.This past year has proved that any day can end far differently than it began. Yet, when you say “disaster planning” or “emergency preparedness,” most Americans think “Doomsday Preppers” or the zombie apocalypse rather than scenarios that are much more likely, such as knowledge of evacuation routes or a hospital floor that’s been closed off with no power. Now Andre Gagne of Charlotte and Julie Sczerbinski of Davidson aim to change the dialogue to help people become better prepared for emergencies on every scale.Gagne, 34, of the Highland Creek area of Charlotte, is a former firefighter and trained emergency medical technician who has worked for the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the National Disaster Medical System. He now owns Next Level Readiness, a full-service source for all-hazard emergency management and disaster planning, preparedness and response. Next Level Readiness also has a station at the Eden Street Market on Main Street in Davidson, selling outdoor and survival gear, and disaster readiness supplies.Gagne’s first federal deployment was a memorable one: Sept. 11, 2001. His years of experience have taught him that most of us aren’t prepared. “I’ve found that people think about how they’re going to be prepared but don’t put it into action until something adverse happens,” said Gagne. “We need to wrap our heads around all-hazard preparedness, not just severe weather or an act of terrorism. We need to take the blinders off and see the world as a whole.”Gagne is quick to point out that it’s not as scary as it sounds. “Open-mindedness, training, education and conversation can change people’s viewpoint. ‘Doomsday Preppers’ gives a scary, negative connotation, but it shouldn’t be that way,” he said.Next Level Readiness provides services for individuals and families, as well as organizations such as hospitals, schools and universities, and municipalities. It employs or subcontracts a team of 25 emergency response professionals – including firefighters, police, surgeons and nurses – with a combined 200 years’ experience in handling crises.Gagne recommends reviewing your emergency response plan twice a year – when you change your clocks – so that everyone is aware of what to do in case of a crisis; and putting together a “hurricane backpack,” consisting of three days’ worth of food and water, as well as solar- or hand-powered flashlights, a first-aid kit, family documents and insurance information.Sczerbinski acknowledges that her background is a bit different than Gagne’s. The 42-year-old River Run resident and mother of two she was troubled by what she read or saw on the news. Whether it was about a tsunami in Japan or honeybee colony collapse disorder, she realized her family was a bit too reliant on modern conveniences and the Target up the road. Sczerbinski began to write a blog, “Home Ready Home,” to document how she changed her life, so that her family was prepared for crises of all levels – not only large-scale, but situations such as job loss or a house fire.“The greatest threat to our health and security is not being prepared,” said Sczerbinski. “I never want to be in the middle of an emergency scenario with my family and be thinking ‘Wow, if only I’d taken the whole be prepared thing a little more seriously.’ ”For information, visit www.nextlevelreadiness.com or www.homereadyhome.com.
Sunday, Jul. 21, 2013
Charlotte man, Davidson woman urge preparedness in different ways
Amy Reiss is a freelance writer for University City News. Have a story idea for Amy? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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