Many often do not think about the importance of emergency preparedness. Sadly, when an incident occurs communities and individuals often realize how unprepared they really are and victims and responders suffer needlessly. The CDC and local health organizations have preparedness tips and measures, but it takes involvement on the individual and community level for any of that to actually matter.
For individual and families there are specific things that can be done to ensure that if something does happen you are prepared. In your home you should put together a disaster kit, or what some call an isolation kit. That way if you are at home and a disaster happens preventing you from having access to resources like food, electricity, and so forth you can provide for yourself and your family until emergency responders can mobilize to address the problem. Local health departments can typically mobilize a response within 48 hours. That is a long time to go without basic resources.
What do you need for a kit? Good question. The CDC has a very helpful disaster preparedness section of their website with tips on what to include in an emergency kit and how best to prepare. You can find that information at: http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/
The state of Texas also has a number of resources for individuals and families to consider: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/PublicInfo.htm
You might also consider having a kit built for each vehicle you and your family use as well as a "to go" kit for each member of the family in the event that your home is unsafe or a quick evacuation is needed.
The aforementioned 48 hour preparedness window for emergency responders is dependent on the ability for that community to get resources from the federal government, if needed, and the preparation that the community in question was able to do.
The Ector County Health Department, for example, like many health departments does not have a lot of staff members. We develop plans for emergencies and do our best to conduct drills and be ready to respond to an incident. However, community involvement is necessary in order to be ideally prepared. In order to have locations that we can mobilize response we need cooperation from business owners, churches, schools, and so forth because the health department building alone could not address this population. That said, we would need to do exercises in those locations so that we know what to expect in the event of an emergency. It is not enough to know that a building is large enough to set up stations for the provisioning of food, resources, and/or medicine. We have to be intimately familiar with the structure and surrounding areas. We need to know if we can isolate sick people from healthy people. How do people get there? Is there enough parking? Do we need to bus them in? How many staff members do we need to address this facility in an emergency? We also need to know how many people we can move through in a simulated exercise so that we can reasonably calculate how many locations we need to have running at a given time.
As you can clearly see, this cannot be done without help from stakeholders and volunteers. Without community involvement being prepared for an emergency is an unreachable dream.