Remember Chicken Little? “Help! Help! The sky is falling! We’re running for our lives!” While the sky isn’t falling, at least not yet, it’s been a banner year for natural disasters and the recent 7.1 earthquake in California was a reminder of the need for disaster readiness. Most of us pay credence to the need for a day after or day of plan, but, for whatever reason, not everyone has that plan in place. So, what exactly should we do in an emergency?
First things first. In any emergency, take a deep breath, calm yourself as best you can, then check for danger and assess the damage before moving on. If you’re the only one affected call 911, but if there appears to be widespread damage, it’s time to fall back on your emergency plans and the services that are available in your area. Your planshould encompass several types of emergencies, but regardless of the problem there are certain things you will need to insure the safety of your family.
The first is a survival kit. In broad strokes it should contain contain food, matches, a first aid kit, a tool kit, a fire extinguisher, a battery operated radio, flashlights, water purification tablets or filters, and a grab-and-go folder containing your important documents. You will also want to have a heat source for warmth and cooking. If the emergency is to weathered at home, you should have a manual can opener and a two week supply of food that requires no refrigeration, water, special preparation or cooking. Make sure that your family will eat the food you stock, so some attention must be paid to their likes and dislikes. Items you might consider for your kit include ready-to-eat meats, canned fruits and vegetables, canned or boxed juices, milk (powdered or boxed) and soup. High energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix work well. Don’t forget food for your pets. To conserve water and electricity, you’ll also want to have a supply of disposable plates and utensils on hand.
If the disaster forces you to evacuate your home, chances are you won’t have time to gather the supplies your family will require, so you will need a grab-and-go disaster supply kit containing the items that will keep your family fed and comfortable. It should be light weight, portable and contain a 3 day supply of food and water, all the non-food items we’ve already discussed, plus prescription medication, computers and additional clothing and blankets. Your family should also have an evacuation plan in place and you should know where your children will be sent if they are evacuated while at school. Before you leave your home make sure to turnoff the electricity, gas and water and fill your gas tank if time allows.
While I wish this weren’t necessary, I can’t omit plans for a chemical, biological or nuclear threats. We live in a time when accidents or terrorism force us to deal with them. Knowing what to do and preparing in advance, can reduce the harmful effects of these disasters. Two important things to remember: Listen to the media for instructions from local authorities, and make sure your emergency survival kit is ready to grab-and-go. If you are instructed to shelter in place, pick an interior room in your home where you can block out air that may contain chemicals if you are instructed to shelter in place. Turn off all ventilation in your home. If you have been exposed and experience trouble breathing, have watering eyes, or your skin stings, you must decontaminate as quickly as possible by removing all clothing by cutting them off, not pulling them over your head. Wash hands with soap and water. Remove contact lenses and rinse your eyes with lots of water, before washing other body parts and changing into uncontaminated clothing. Call local emergency services for information as to where to go for a more thorough decontamination. If the threat is nuclear and you survive the initial blast, fallout will be a problem, so remain indoors unless instructed to proceed to a shelter.
I urge you to link to the following publication and print it so you have it at hand when you need it. The sections on water are especially important. You can live without food for a considerable period of time, but you need to drink at least 2 quarts of water each day, even in times of emergencies. FEMA urges you to drink as much as you can and walks you through the storage and purification of water. If an earthquake, hurricane, winter storm, or other disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, and electricity for days or even weeks. By taking some time now to store emergency food and water supplies you can provide for your entire family.