Does your family have an Emergency Plan?
A billboard on the way to my house reads, “HOPE FOR THE BEST” IS NOT an EMERGENCY PLAN. I’m reminded almost daily that my family needs to do more to be prepared for any emergency that could leave us without food, water, electricity, heat, a means of communication, transportation or even a roof over our heads.
September is National Preparedness Month. This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.” The official website, http://www.ready.gov/september, states, “This year we are asking you to take action now – make a plan with your community, your family, and for your pets. Plan how to stay safe and communicate during the disasters that can affect your community. We ask everyone to participate in…the national day of action, National PrepareAthon! Day which culminates National Preparedness Month on September 30.” Visit the site for other helpful information.
Various areas are more prone to certain kinds of natural disasters than others. In Utah what we fear most is “The Big One,” a long-overdue earthquake along the Wasatch Fault that would damage or destroy many if not most homes and businesses. However, perhaps you heard recently on the national news about flash floods in Southern Utah that took people there completely by surprise and caused 18 deaths. Not too many years ago, a surprise tornado swept through downtown Salt Lake City. In North Dakota, blizzards, tornadoes, hail, and flooding are natural disasters that could happen. MSN reports that the worst natural disaster to occur in ND was the 1997 Red River Flood, which forced over 50,000 residents of Grand Forks to evacuate. The moral of the story for everyone across the country is, “We should all be prepared for a variety of unexpected events.”
Where to start?
Some of us are probably more prepared than others, so the place to start is to evaluate the level of preparedness in your home and the homes of your family members. You first concern in the event of a natural disaster will be the welfare of those you love and how you can help each other. Get together with your family to evaluate what each of you still needs to do to be prepared and how you will contact each other &/or where you will meet should disaster strike. One idea is to designate someone in another part of the country as your contact person. If everyone checks in with and gives a report to that person who is not affected by your disaster, you will only have one call to make, thus freeing up local means of communication that, if they exist at all, will doubtless be overloaded. If feasible, one or more meeting places, depending on conditions, can also be decided upon. Don’t forget to think about how you will get there. If you have to abandon your car and walk, a pair of walking shoes in the trunk could be a life-saver.
What to have on hand or take with you?
You may have heard about 72-Hour Kits. A disaster-supplies or 72-hour kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You could get help in hours or it might take days. Kits can be purchased ready-made, or you can create one for every member of your family. Googling “72-Hour Emergency Kits” will give you literally over a million ideas on where to buy ready-made kits or what you should include in kits that you make yourself. Or you could go straight to http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
I recently received a colorful brochure entitled, “Plan 9, a simple guide to the nine essential items to help you shelter-in-place in the event of an emergency.” If you can stay in or near your home, it shouldn’t be too difficult to assemble these 9 essentials in an easily accessible place:
- Bottled water, one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation.
- Nonperishable food, enough for 3-5 days per person.
- Clothes, one change per person, including footwear and possibly blankets, rain gear and outerwear.
- Medications, including 3 days of any prescription medicines a family member is taking.
- Flashlight, bright, with extra batteries, or hand-cranked lights can also be purchased.
- Manual can opener or non-perishable foods that don’t have pull-top openings.
- Radio, battery-powered, crank-operated or solar-powered.
- Hygiene items, just the basics like soap, toilet paper, and a toothbrush.
- First Aid Kit with basics such as antiseptic, gloves, bandages, and non-prescription medicines.
Do you know the emergency plans for your children’s schools? Do you have important telephone numbers, including your community’s information line, together in an easily accessible place? Does your family have an escape plan in case you have to quickly evacuate your home? If you have a family member with special needs such as oxygen or home nursing skills, do you have a plan for their continued care?
My brochure includes this sage advice: “You cannot control when a disaster will occur, but you can control what you will do when it does.” I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do in order to be prepared not just IF but Whenever a disaster occurs.
by Marti Lythgoe, DTN Home Care Writer/Editor