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Boston awarded $1.4 million to bolster disaster preparedness

A first-aid emergency kit with an assortment of bandages, rations, and other useful items. The City of Boston announced on Tuesday a $1.4 million grant awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase preparations in the event of a natural disaster. COURTESY OF FLICKR

Boston was awarded a $1.4 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to boost the city’s readiness in the event of a natural disaster and other emergencies, the city announced Tuesday.

Boston was one of eight cities to receive a Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant and was selected along with San Francisco for the largest amount of grant money and the receipt of these funds mark the beginning of National Preparedness Month in Boston, according to a city press release.

Ky’Ron Owens, communications director for Boston’s Office of Emergency Management, said the city will use these funds to bolster its ability to weather disasters, focusing on improving disaster housing and regional collaboration in emergency response.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said in the press release that the extra funds will enable the city to further its mission to ensure the safety of its residents and encouraged families to begin planning for an emergency, especially as National Preparedness Month starts.

“This grant that will allow us to proactively prepare and build up our emergency response to protect our city and our residents,” Walsh said. “… Resident safety in the City of Boston is non-negotiable and we encourage all residents to take simple, preventative steps to ensure their safety and preparedness.”

Owens said the city will work in partnership with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the communities of the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region to address gaps in the area’s post-disaster housing.

“After any major catastrophic event, people are displaced,” Owens said. “And so, what are we doing to support those those victims?”

The Metro Boston Homeland Security region includes the cities of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop, Owens said.

Additionally, Owens said the funds will help facilitate “collaborative regional planning” and develop coordinated disaster response plans between the cities within the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region, as with MEMA, FEMA and partners in the private sector.

As September is National Preparedness Month, Owens said Boston students should begin preparing in case natural disaster and urged students to start by signing up for emergency alerts delivered via text message or email through the OEM’s Alert Boston program.

For students who prefer these alerts in another language, the messages are also available in Spanish, French and the Hong Kong dialect of Chinese.

Owens said students should also follow OEM instructions on creating an emergency kit and response plan, as well as make sure to review their college’s emergency protocol.

“We know that when emergencies happen, they typically just happen, and there’s not really much time to prepare,” Owens said. “So it’s best if you stay prepared, you stay ready. And that’s kind of the whole theme of National Preparedness Month is prepared, not scared.”

Kiara Riley, 17, of Dorchester, said while she recognizes the importance of having an emergency kit and plan, her family does not yet have one.

“I feel like everyone should have [an emergency kit and plan],” Riley said. “It’s just that I don’t have one. Honestly, it was never really a family conversation.”

Brookline resident Ben Page, 55, said residents should make sure to have a plan for a natural disaster but that universities should make sure their students know what to do in an emergency.

“I feel like it’s more the responsibility of the university to insure the safety of the students in situations like that,” Page said.

Sam Steil, 25, of Allston, said she understood why residents might not feel the need to make an emergency kit and plan.

“I think a lot of people like myself don’t really take the time out of their day to think about it,” Steil said. “because we don’t think [a natural disaster] is going to happen.”

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