Regional leaders began a campaign yesterday to get more people ready for a major disaster and said Hurricane Katrina may force them to revise their emergency preparedness plans.
The National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Campaign is designed to remind people that emergencies -- in the form of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack -- can come any time, and it reprises the be-on-alert theme so often sounded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"What's the lesson of 9/11? What's the lesson of Katrina?" said Jay Fisette (D), chairman of the Arlington County Board. "It's encouraging people to be ready, to make a plan."
The campaign, funded by a $4.5 million federal grant, was in the works months before Katrina wiped out much of the Gulf Coast. But officials said yesterday that it is taking on an increased urgency in the days after the hurricane and as the four-year anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches.
Some local leaders used a news conference to voice their dismay at the federal government's response to Katrina and said they would have to revisit their own emergency planning.
"What I don't want to see is what happened in Katrina, where it looks like the local and state [governments] are on their own," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D).
Officials plan to get out the preparedness message by passing out literature at Metro stations and community gatherings. It will be broadcast in TV, print and radio advertisements, officials said, and on the campaign's Web site, www.makeaplan.org.
The local leaders, who represent 12 jurisdictions in the Washington region, said that everyone should have the essentials to get them through doomsday scenarios: a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food, a plan for communicating with family members during a crisis and a battery-powered radio.
Planned evacuation routes from home and work are important, they said, as are such items as a first-aid kit and a flashlight.
A survey of 1,800 residents this summer found that only 39 percent had taken those precautions.
The campaign's goal is to get that to 50 percent and then higher, said Barbara Childs-Pair, the director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency and the campaign's project manager.
Officials are also distributing a card that would contain personal information helpful in an emergency, including contact phone numbers, medical conditions and such tips as: "In the event of an emergency, you should tune in to your local TV or radio station for instructions from your local government on how to proceed."
It also says that "during an emergency, unless you are in a burning building or an unsafe structure, chances are you will be instructed to shelter in place -- whether it is at home or at work -- and await further instruction from your local government." That means stay put.
The card could be "one of the most important in your wallet," said David F. Snyder, a Falls Church City Council member who also is on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's Council on Emergency Preparedness.
But it is not a panacea, he said, and the region still has a long way to go to be prepared for a major disaster.
"It doesn't solve everything," he said. "It doesn't close all the gaps."