“It won’t happen to me.” “It won’t happen here.” These are just a few of the phrases we always hear when it comes to emergencies, disasters and accidents. Then the unspeakable happens and the phrase, “I didn’t think it would happen to me,” are the first words spoken.

Stafford County partnered with North Stafford High School and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to hold an emergency preparedness expo in October. More than 150 people attended and participated in the free, family-friendly event.

“The purpose of the expo was to help members of the community to prepare themselves before emergency happens,” Bradley Sant said. Sant serves as the president of the Stafford Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We have a very good emergency service network set up in Stafford County, but there aren’t always enough people to provide all the services required in times of need. Members of the community need to be prepared. This expo was a perfect opportunity.”

There were different emergency services, displays and events available for the community to participate in, including a K-9 and drone demonstrations, fire and rescue, social services, sheriff’s office, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Women, Infant and Children (WIC).

“We partnered with these emergency services organizations to help inform the community and prepare them as best we can before an emergency happens,” Coco Francois, the Emergency Preparedness Expo coordinator, said.

Francois, who works as a firefighter paramedic with Prince William County Fire and Rescue, added, “I do a lot of educating where I work and we get to teach the community, but it is normally when we get to the emergency. I wanted to be ahead of the ball.”

Many of those who attended the expo were grateful for the event and wished more people would attend these events to become better informed.

“It is good to know the resources,” Stafford County resident Shannon Pell said. “I also came because of my son. He is really into safety, being prepared and natural disasters, so I figured this would be a good thing for him to attend.”

Eleven-year-old Devon Pell, son of Shannon Pell, said his favorite part of the expo was the 72-hour kit presentation. “There is always a chance a natural disaster is going to strike, so it is good to be prepared and having these expos can help everyone get a little prepared.”

One of those volunteer emergency services at the expo who helps prepare people in their community is CERT. As the CERT statements states, “The CERT members are neighbors helping neighbors who are trained and equipped to support life safety and property preservation while doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”

Along with typical emergency presentations, the sheriff’s office staged a “Hidden in Plain Sight” room, with commonly used household items to show parents how to identify if their teens might be experimenting with drugs or drinking.

In addition to the emergency preparedness side of the event, the American Red Cross conducted a blood drive, which was an Eagle Scout project for North Stafford High School student Luke Abramson. Twenty-four pints of blood were collected to help the local blood bank ensure it has an adequate supply for basic medical needs as well as in cases of an emergency.

With so many possible natural disasters in the Stafford area, one recurring theme resonated through all who attended the expo. Knowledge, preparedness, self-reliance: all of these are skills we all need to make sure we’re ready for whatever comes.

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