LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - On the first day of the 2009 hurricane season, the tropics were quiet. However, we all know they won't stay that way. So on Monday, USM Gulf Coast launched a hurricane awareness series to keep people focused on their disaster preparations.
This week's guest at USM was the Red Cross. Its disaster preparedness director is Rosemary Purcell. She had a very simple message for conference attendees. Be prepared.
"I'm here to save lives," said Purcell.
The Biloxian became a Red Cross worker for a simple reason. "I signed up because I'm a grateful survivor of Katrina," she said.
Purcell uses her Katrina story in her disaster preparedness presentations.
"What you do will save your life, and will save the lives of your families," Purcell said.
She used the USM meeting to emphasize that supplies must be purchased now, so families are ready for the next storm.
"Get prepared. I've been trained to think that way now," she admitted.
One of the volunteers at the seminar with Purcess was Ron Crosby.
"You need to be prepared. Be able to grab a kit, leave and have some subsistence until you can get other help," he explained to the dozen people in attendance.
The Red Cross recommends you have two types of kits. The "Go Bag" is for evacuees. It includes basic travel items, plus a black pouch for important papers.
"You need to prepare for a disaster," said Crosby.
A "stay kit" is for people who remain in the area during a storm.
"We give you the basic plan and then you personalize your kits," said Purcell.
The Red Cross recommendation is that you have a three day supply of fresh food and cleaning supplies in any kit you put together.
"That means that the peanut butter that I put in last year has to be replaced with fresh peanut butter this year," Purcell said.
Her final reminder was that you shouldn't dilly dally around, because the next storm could be right around the corner.
"We've already had one in the Atlantic. Didn't do anything, but it was a warning," she said.
Check out WLOX.com's Hurricane Center for more information about storm preparations, and to see our interactive storm tracker.