PLATTSBURGH If disaster strikes, how prepared are you? Last year, President George W. Bush issued a proclamation declaring September National Preparedness Month. The month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of emergency preparedness and to encourage all Americans to better prepare their homes and communities for emergencies. The idea behind the proclamation is to encourage citizens to be proactive to a situation rather than reactive, said Jeanie D. Roberts, executive director of the North Country chapter of the American Red Cross. Roberts said it is vitally important people are prepared ahead of an emergency, regardless if it is large or small. Our national organization and even [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] has told each response local organization that we need to be prepared to take care of our communities for 48-72 hours, Roberts said. We, in turn, ask our communities that they need to be prepared to shelter in place until we can get to them. Last November, the North Country chapter of the American Red Cross, in conjunction with the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc., developed Are You Prepared? A Basic Guide for North Country Communities on Disaster Preparedness. The 26-page guide outlines what items to have readily-accessible in the event of an emergency, such as a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, batteries and enough bottled water and nonperishable food for at least a 72-hour period. The local Red Cross, said Roberts, has examples of what disaster preparedness backpacks should contain. Those who dont want to put together their own emergency backpack can order one through the chapter, she said. During the month of September, the chapter will perform installations of its Lifeline emergency communication devices free of charge. Also, the chapter will host its first CPR party Wednesday, Sept. 17, with the idea that a family will host a group of friends, getting others interested in learning the lifesaving technique. We have a chapter instructor who will teach adult CPR for 4-8 individuals. It will be $300 and that cost will be divided between the guests, explained Roberts. Our first hosts will be Sara and Bill Rowden. We are hoping that this will be something that the community will support. In Clinton County, the local chapter is preparing a Red Cross preparedness program for local agencies and their staff. Volunteers will also distribute preparedness information at the Altona Correctional Facility. In addition to special events planned for the month of September, the Red Cross also regularly teaches lifesaving courses such as CPR and first aid. For more information about preparing an emergency plan, details about the Sept. 17 CPR party or other Red Cross services, contact the North Country chapter at 561-7280. Copies of the preparedness guide may be obtained by calling the Red Cross or the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties, 563-0028.