Lt. General Russell Honore: Still on the frontline

A resilient community is a prepared one. A community where almost everyone knows first aid is a prepared one. A community that has a plan is a prepared one, said retired Army Lt. General Russell Honore. Honore was in town last week to spread his emergency

A resilient community is a prepared one. A community where almost everyone knows first aid is a prepared one. A community that has a plan is a prepared one, said retired Army Lt. General Russell Honore.

Honore was in town last week to spread his emergency preparedness message for participants at the 2008 UNITY: Journalists of Color convention.

The three-star general, whose military career spanned 30-plus years, surrendered his command last January but still felt it necessary to “stay in the game.” This time in a different capacity, sort of.

The Atlanta resident supervised many disaster relief efforts and garnered national attention when he was the director of Hurricane Katrina’s Joint Task Force in 2005. He now conducts emergency preparedness presentations at least twice a week throughout the country, and he has no plans of slowing down.

“This is my duty, it’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s the right thing to do. Just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I have to stop helping and teaching,” Honore told the Defender before he and the American Red Cross organization prepared to give a presentation to UNITY convention goers.

There is no limit to the disasters that a community can be faced with. It can be a hurricane, an industrial emergency, a terrorist attack, an earthquake, a flood or a “basic” power outage that could last for days, he said.

“You just have to be prepared. A disaster can strike with great warning– or no warning,” Honore said.

In conjunction with the American Red Cross, he is working with several corporations to make sure they are equipped with enough survival materials, including food rations, for their employees. He also suggests that employees keep a mask, a pair of gloves, protein bars and a whistle at their desks.

The Louisiana native is also in the planning stages of working with various colleges and universities here, as well as in Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, to get their students certified in first aid before they graduate.

Afterwards, he will target high schools.

“It will add more resilience in the community. People will be able to take care of one another. If I had a heart attack right now, I’m sure there wouldn’t be anyone to help save me during the first seven to eight minutes until an ambulance arrived,” the emergency preparedness expert said. “The ultimate human experience is saving a life.”

Families need to make sure they have an evacuation plan in place and an emergency kit handy. Children should also be involved in the process. While some may be too young to learn first aid, they aren’t too young to learn basic safety, he said.

“Make it an activity day. They should know what to avoid that would put them at risk. They should learn how to dial 911. They should know what to do and where to go if there is a fire in the house, if the power goes out. They can even learn how to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. There is lots of opportunity for children to be involved in the process. It’s better for them to learn it now, than later,” Honore said.

Preparedness extends beyond your immediate family. Everyone needs to make sure the vulnerable are also prepared –– the elderly and shut in, he said.

“Instead of buying grandma that nice centerpiece for the dining room table, or grandpa that $80 silk tie, give them a survival kit instead. If they live alone, they definitely need to be prepared,” Honore said.

A culture of preparedness is vital to any community, he added.

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