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Preparing for Emergencies

by Linda Byard

Disaster can strike anywhere, and anytime in the world. Everyone should plan for the emergencies most likely to occur where they live. But people should also prepare for very rare and totally unexpected events.

We are all vulnerable and we don't always get much warning of catastrophic events: blizzards, fires, hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, floods, military actions, terrorist attacks, chemical spills, radioactive release, disease outbreaks, and electrical blackouts. In all cases, a little planning can go a long way. People react more sensibly in emergencies when they know exactly what to do. Figure out which of the tips below are relevant to you and be prepared!

1. The most important part of emergency preparedness involves communications: Every family member whether at home, school, work, or just out, needs to know where to go, what to do, and who to try to contact in the event of a disaster. Telephone lines might be down, cell phone service might be out, and there may be no access to the Internet. In the absence of all normal methods of communication, each family member should have a plan, and a back-up plan or two. People who unexpectedly need to evacuate their homes might leave messages on the refrigerator or a bulletin board. Each family should designate a friend or family member in another location to act as intermediary if direct communication becomes impossible. You might also want to specify a location away from your home where family members might try to meet, or at least leave notes for one another.

2. Find out the protocol in your children's schools in the event of disaster. This is necessary information for your family plan.

3. Family members should know all possible ways to escape from every room in the house. That might mean purchasing emergency ladders for second stories, or learning how to go down from a second story window using sheets. Everyone should also know more than one way to get home from wherever it is they spend the day.

4. Prepare an emergency supply kit to last for three days. That is the time it generally takes for emergency services to reach full strength. Make a list of things you know you will want in this kit and post the list on your refrigerator. If an item is not in the kit itself, note exactly where it is so that you can find it quickly.

5. The contents of the kit should be customized for your family and for the kind of disasters most likely to happen. If you need to escape on foot, you will not be able to carry as much as you would in a car. Modify the contents of the kit based on your climate, on family members, on where you will try to go, and how you will get there. You might also be staying in your house in one room or the basement.

Think of the items below as examples of what might be needed:

Packaged ready to eat food
Water in sealed containers/ purifying tablets
Flares/glow sticks
Multi-tooled knife
Portable radio
First aid supplies - bandages, tape, antibiotic cream, anti-inflammatories
Extra glasses or contacts, hearing aid batteries
Sunscreen, lip balm
Medical information, prescriptions, medications
Tent (plastic trash bags can be improvised)
Matches or lighter
Warm clothing, poncho, blanket, or sleeping bags,
Clothing changes
Cell phone and chargers
Photos of family members
Copies of birth certificates, passports
Spare keys for car, house
Duct tape
Personal sanitation/hygiene supplies
Sturdy shoes
Plastic bags
Supplies for baby (diapers, formula, food)

6. Learn about your local area. Are there designated shelters for disasters? People who live in tornado prone areas should identify the best place to take shelter at home, work, school, or other frequented areas. Those who live on or near the coast should figure out how best to get above sea level in a hurry.

7. Prepare your house for likely emergencies. People who live in earthquake prone areas will want to pay special attention to securing bookshelves and other furniture to the walls. Replacing incandescent bulbs with halogens or fluorescent fixtures minimize the danger of fire. What about your computers, televisions, and other loose heavy items? Can you put items on non-slip mats to minimize their moving around? Can you put smaller items which might move around in latched cabinets? If you strap your hot water heater to the wall, it is less likely to break and it could be a source of clean water.

8. A building contractor might be able to identify structural weaknesses in your home which you could fix in advance.

9. Everyone should have a source of light that is not dependent on the electricity being on.

10. Stay informed about weather-related disasters. Know the difference between a "watch" and a "warning." Heed sirens or other local signals.

11. "Drop, Cover, and Hold On." Make sure everyone in your family knows how to drop to the floor, take cover under sturdy desk or table, and hang on to the furniture. This advice might be helpful in an earthquake or in a tornado.

12. After a calamity, check for injuries, administer first aid and then note damage to gas, water, sewage, and electrical lines. If you keep a wrench next to the gas shut-off, you can easily turn it off. Know how to turn off other services as well.

13. Use your portable radio for updates on disaster information and safety advisories. Don't use up your batteries for entertainment. Keep a deck of cards or other amusements in your kit.

14. Decide in advance of disasters what to do about pets.

15. Enroll in that first aid course you have been meaning to take.

16. Does everyone know where the fire extinguisher is and how to operate it?

17. Have an occasional family meeting to update your plans, and the contents of your kit.

Linda Bayard

References: Wikkipedia and the American Red Cross

Why not copy the article, print it out, pin it up somewhere and read it regularly. Act on the bits most likely to affect you and give a copy to your friends and each of your family members. HNT

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