It is encouraging to hear that federal disaster officials are redoubling efforts to close gaps in this year’s hurricane preparedness plans.

Most of us have seen enough of hurricanes to know that preparation and planning are the keys to ensuring timely responses and quick recovery in the event of a devastating storm season like we have experienced in the past.

We’re all too familiar with the government’s disaster response in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina when they showed up late and unprepared. There is some comfort in knowing that the government’s disaster response functions have since been strengthened and reorganized.

But a new and improved federal disaster team doesn’t take the place of the public getting ready when a storm appears on the horizon.

Federal officials clearly noted specific disaster response needs that could pose a challenge, including evacuating people with special needs and providing food and water immediately after a major storm.

That’s why it is incumbent on people doing the things they need to do to protect themselves and their families when a hurricane comes their way.

With 2009 hurricane season beginning on Monday, it should be a personal responsibility that able people make necessary preparations.

The goal, of course, is to get everyone to prepare to survive a hurricane for at least three days. If enough people take precautions themselves, that would allow governments and agencies more resources to help the elderly, the needy, people in shelters and those who aren’t as able to take care of themselves.

The point is that every hurricane survivor cannot and should not expect local, state or federal governments to bail them out immediately after a storm if they failed to be minimally prepared. It is a personal responsibility that able people who live in harm’s way make preparations early before the hurricane season begins.

So go ahead and start preparing for the worst this hurricane season. Take responsibility for your own welfare, and if we are hit, be ready to hang on until help arrives.

Editor’s Note: The above editorial appeared on May 26 in the Pensacola News Journal. It was reprinted here with permission from The Associated Press. The views expressed in the editorial are not necessarily those of the South Florida Times.