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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Prepared and Alert

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Recent events have reminded us that, in Arkansas, we must be prepared for any type of disaster to strike at any time of the year. Thanks to technology, we often have the opportunity to take shelter, but planning ahead is also important.

This past week, we had tornado warnings in parts of the State, a reminder that severe storms strike Arkansas in all months of the year and not just in the spring. Arkansans in the path of those storms were warned of their approach by a localized part of the Emergency Alert System activated by the National Weather Service. Governors and emergency officials nationwide can also activate the system in the event of other disasters, like wildfires and chemical spills. The system can be used by the President to notify all Americans in the event of a major national or regional disaster, like an earthquake or any natural or man-made threat.

While different forms of emergency-alert systems have been around for 50 years, there had never been a simultaneous nationwide test of these systems until this past week. On November 9, the test was transmitted simultaneously via television and radio stations in all U.S. states and territories. Small glitches were found, including in Arkansas, but results of the test will help improve the alert and warning system.

Not every potential disaster carries a warning. We were reminded of this on a recent Saturday night when much of Western Arkansas felt a 5.6 magnitude earthquake centered in Oklahoma, the biggest recorded quake in that state's history.

Arkansas is very familiar with the potential for earthquakes. The New Madrid Fault Line in Eastern Arkansas is part of a major seismic zone capable of spawning widespread destruction. Nearly 200 years ago, four of the largest North American earthquakes ever recorded took place along that fault. State and local officials have prepared for earthquakes in this area for years, and it's important that Arkansans are prepared for such an event.

As our government agencies continue to strengthen America's preparedness and resiliency in the event of a national disaster, it's important that we, as Arkansans, are prepared at a local level, as well. Individuals and families can designate storm shelters, develop communication plans and assemble emergency kits for home, work and vehicles in case these situations ever occur. Emergency kits should include blankets, flashlights and batteries, food, water, medicines and other necessary items. For more information on how to prepare, visit the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management's Web site at ready.arkansas.gov.

Emergencies are a part of life, and their potential is cause for preparation, not panic. Arkansans' minds may be on the upcoming winter, but we also know that conditions in our beautiful state can often be fast-changing and unpredictable. We can help keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and secure by being prepared for emergencies in all seasons. We always take care of our own after disasters, and it is just as important to prepare together before disaster arrives.


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