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Dear Ms. Taracka,

I am a 5th grade student who is giving a power point presentation about disasters and emergency relief workers.  For this presentation, I need to ask an expert some questions about disasters.  After reading your profile I felt that you would be an excellent expert on this subject.  Here are the questions I would like to ask:

1. Have you ever been in a disaster?
2. What do you think was the worst disaster in history?
3. What is the most important thing for people to do in order to get ready for a disaster?
4. How do you prepare people for a disaster?
5. How did you get interested in your work?

I look forward to your response.  Thanks so much for your help.

Sincerely, Liam

Hello Liam,
I am happy to help you with your presentation.
I will list your questions, and then my answers.

1. Have you ever been in a disaster?
YES, I lived in Florida for 15 years and during that time experienced many hurricanes (some of them very severe, Category 3 and 4), and a terrible tornado storm (the first tornado of the storm passed my house by 1/4 mile - the next day we worked disaster relief in a trailer park that was hit by an F4 - the damage and destruction was beyond imagination.)

2. What do you think was the worst disaster in history?
I measure the worst disasters by the number of people they killed, not the cost of the damage that was done.  The worst ever would be the Central China Floods in 1931 which killed possibly millions of people.
In our recent history, the Tsunami in Indonesia in 2004 , and of course the earthquakes in Haiti in Jan of this year.

3. What is the most important thing for people to do in order to get ready for a disaster?
First,they should educate themselves as to what disasters they are most likely to face in their area, each disaster may have different methods of preparing (floods are different from earthquakes are different from tornados, etc.)  Next, ALL PEOPLE should prepare in their home AND with their neighbors to have a ready supply of food (canned, dry, MRE's) and water that will last AT LEAST 7 days (the longer the better), plus first aid kits, copies of important papers, pictures of pets and family, and other emergency supplies.  Please see my website for EXTENSIVE information on how to prepare and for lists of supplies needed.

4. How do you prepare people for a disaster?
I provide my website,, as a public service so people have the information they need to prepare.  I also teach a course called "Disaster and Emergency Preparedness for Individuals and Families" in which I take people step by step through what they need to do to prepare for disasters.

5. How did you get interested in your work?
Years ago, I joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) when I lived in Florida.  I got very involved in the Search and Rescue missions with the CAP.  We also worked some disaster relief missions, and I saw first hand just how quickly things could go badly for people (and entire communities) who don't prepare for disasters.  I believe that education is the first step to becoming prepared, so that is what I do - educate people about preparedness.

I hope this information helps you in your presentation, Liam, and I also hope that you encourage your family to follow the steps to becoming emergency prepared.  It doesn't matter where you live in the world, natural disasters can, and do, happen everywhere.

Thank you!

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Heather Taracka


I am an Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Instructor and I created and operate the website My primary area of expertise is in individual and family emergency and disaster preparedness. I also have knowledge in neighborhood and organizational emergency preparedness. Ask me questions about necessary steps to take to prepare your home,family, organization or neighborhood for a multitude of natural or man-made disasters, as each possible disaster has different preparatory steps.


I have years of experience in disaster relief and search and rescue and belong to a couple of related organizations. I have taken numerous courses on the subject (some FEMA) and spent countless hours researching information on individual and family preparedness.


I have a large amount of real-life diaster preparedness experience. I teach a course on Personal Emergency Preparedness (which I created after hundreds of hours studying the subject). I have myself been directly affected numerous disasters including; hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornados, winter storms, and house fires.

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