September is National Preparedness Month and the time each year Coast Guard men and women encourage the boating public and coastal communities to take steps to be prepared for natural and man-made disasters. But, are our own families always ready at home? Over the course of the month, Coast Guard All Hands will share tips for Coast Guard personnel to ensure our families and property are safe and sound so we can focus on the mission.
Written by Shannon Maxwell.
As America’s maritime first responders, the 2014 Coast Guard Directive states, “responding to natural, man-made, and other disasters is a fundamental Coast Guard capability.”
This is a reflection on the skill and competence of personnel protecting the communities they serve, as well as those of their families. Ms. Sedonia Cheatham, a native New Orleanian, is a prime example of a Coast Guard spouse and ombudsman who has acted on this know-how to the betterment of her community.
In 2012, as Hurricane Isaac was barreling down on New Orleans, Sedonia assumed the role of the station’s Ombudsman, although her official role was not to begin for several months. Driven by her experiences in Katrina and other hurricanes throughout her life, Sedonia and her husband had already purchased a home above the flood plain large enough to shelter others should a storm hit the area again. It served her well during the aftermath of Isaac.
The power did not come back on for most of the Coast Guard families at the command for the better part of a week following Isaac. When Sedonia’s power suddenly came back on, she offered the others warm showers, cooked food, a place to wash clothes, A/C, and light. “Seeing the faces of people who had been in the heat, and with little resources for days, come in and smile and laugh with one another in my home was the best cure, and those folks then turned right back around and went out with me to help others.”
This support and strength of the Coastie community coming together is something that Sedonia raves about and recognizes as the key to surviving any hazard. For those Coast Guard families just moving into areas where they may be affected by a hurricane or other natural or man-made disaster, she encourages them to reach out to local Coastie families, to meet their ombudsman who can provide resources, and to attend at least one or two events per month to establish a good foundation of support.
In this way, she says, you are never alone and are better able to be prepared so you can help yourself, neighbors, and others who count on you in an emergency.
Visit Ready Coast Guard for information and tools to help you gain critical knowledge to prepare. Work-Life Programs also can assist you in addressing issues that develop before, during, and after an emergency. To locate the Work-Life Office nearest to you and your local ombudsman, simply call 1-800-872-4957.