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(Enlarge) Col. Edward C. Rothstein, Installation Commander

We asked you to share your concerns, questions and ideas on how we can make Fort Meade a better community, and you delivered.

Last week, I hosted our third Facebook town hall. One of the great things about the Fort Meade community is the way each of you step up to the plate and become accountable whenever we ask for your participation.

At this town hall, we reached more people -- 9,538 -- nearly twice as many as the first two town halls combined. I'm convinced that the meetings are a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about what we can do to make the installation better.

Last week, there were lots of questions and comments posted during the 90-minute town hall. Many of the questions centered on concerns you have about post housing; using post services such as the commissary, the Exchange and gas station; and issues related to traffic and safety.

One of my takeaways was the significant number of you who told me how much you appreciate these opportunities to post your questions and concerns during these Facebook town halls.

For many of your questions, I had members of Team Meade ready to help me articulate a factual and thoughtful answer. In some cases, there were questions that, quite simply, required me to pass them on to a garrison directorate or installation committee to research and determine the appropriate response.

Most importantly, your comments continue to help me "see Fort Meade through your eyes," and I believe we can use that viewpoint to continue to make this a better community.

For those of you who did not have an opportunity to participate in the town hall, I urge you to visit the Fort Meade Facebook page and review the questions and comments posted on the evening of Sept. 6. Many of you have similar questions and I'm sure you will find this information helpful.

On Saturday, we had another bad batch of severe weather that affected our area. According to local weather reports, parts of Maryland experienced extremely high wind speeds, heavy rain and lightning as a line of severe thunderstorms passed through the region. Unfortunately, many residents in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., metro area lost power.

This latest episode of severe weather is another reminder that we all need to be prepared and ready, before a disaster strikes, with emergency kits and food supplies that will help ensure the resiliency of your family or your organization and mitigate the effects of a natural disaster, acts of terrorism and other man-made disasters.

This month is National Preparedness Month. I want to use last week's storm and this annual observance as an opportunity to remind everyone to think about how each of us can play a role in bolstering our preparedness for disasters of all types -- from cyber incidents and acts of terrorism to hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.

The theme for this year's observance is "Be informed. Make a plan. Build a kit. Get involved." It is a reminder that preparedness is a shared responsibility, and emergency management requires the whole community to be engaged.

Here are a few simple steps to prepare for emergencies:

* Residents should make emergency supply kits that include water, food, batteries and first aid in case they lose electrical service.

* Consider making an emergency supply kit for your vehicle, especially during the winter months.

* Choose an emergency contact person outside of your area because it may be easier to call long distance than locally after a disaster.

* Improve preparedness by staying informed about hazards and risks in your area.

* Go through your calendar now and put a reminder on it every six months to review your emergency plan, update telephone numbers and check supplies in your emergency kit to be sure noting has expired, spoiled or changed.

* Get involved in your community preparedness-planning activities. Consider volunteering at your local Red Cross or food pantry prior to a disaster or emergency.

To learn more about emergency preparedness, visit ready.gov.

Whether it is September or any other month of the year, disaster can strike at any time without warning. Being prepared is the best defense that you and your family can have.

Making a plan now is an important step in making sure members of your household know what to do in an emergency.

Have a great week!

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