Health Check: Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can!

September is National Preparedness Month. In light of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, TX, everyone can take action to prepare! In New York, the New York City Community Emergency Response Teams (NYC CERT) are groups of dedicated volunteers who help to prepare their neighbors and communities for different types of disasters. NYC CERT falls under the Community Outreach unit within New York City Office of Emergency Management, the city’s coordinating agency for organizations and agencies involved in emergency planning, education, and information dissemination. The NYCOEM and The Department of Homeland Security recommend the following helpful tips on and how to prepare before disaster strikes:

  • Pick a Place. Decide where your household will reunite after a disaster. Identify two places to meet: one right outside your home and another outside your neighborhood, such as a library, community center, or place of worship.
  • Make the Call. Designate an out-of-state friend or relative that household members can call if separated during a disaster. If New York City phone circuits are busy, long-distance calls may be easier to make.
  • An App for That. Download a group texting app so your entire crew can keep in touch before, during and after an emergency.
  • Practice Makes Perfect. Practice evacuating in the car with your animals, so they’re more comfortable if you need to evacuate in an emergency.
  • Make sure you know what your insurance policy covers before an emergency.
  • Financial Prep Tip. Flood-proof important documents by putting them in plastic bags to protect against water damage.
  • Rainy Day Fund. Keep some cash on hand in case of emergencies.

People with disabilities must take additional steps when making a plan to be prepared. Ready New York: My Emergency Plan is a workbook designed to assist New Yorkers with disabilities or access and functional needs create an emergency plan.

To assist your family with their planning, you can contact 311 (212) 639-9675 or TTY, (212) 504-4115, or sign up for local emergency alerts in your area by contacting

Editor’s Note: Dr. Nicole Hollingsworth is Assistant Vice President for Montefiore Health System’s Office of Community & Population Health.


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