Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Be Prepared for Disasters: Learn How to Create Your Emergency Supply Kit

Having experienced a piece of this 7.2 earthquake in San Diego this past week, it made me revisit my special emergency supply kit that I created when I first started working for the department of public health. Emergency preparedness is a big issue for us in southern California, with whispers of the very frightening “big one” coming our way in our future. The problem is that we’ll never know when. Disasters often don't give a warning, unfortunately. No matter where you live, you need to be prepared for disasters, whether it’s for a flood, hurricane, Tsunami, tornado, fire, winter snow, or earthquake.

First aid burn kit

The first thing you should do is sit with your entire family and devise an “Emergency Plan,” and preferably put it in writing and place it somewhere visible where it is easily accessible in case of an emergency. You may want to also make a copy of this for each family member to have. In this plan, make a list of emergency contacts with phone numbers and addresses. Then select a contact that lives out of town that your family members can reach to check on each other; this would be someone that lives far enough away that would not be affected by the same disaster. Your family should devise a home escape plan in the event of a fire or other emergency from every floor of your home in case of an evacuation. Come up with at least two escape routes from the home and designate a meeting place outside the home. In your disaster plan, also make the following lists:

Household Members: names/cell phone numbers of everyone living in your home

Service Providers: name/phone numbers for electricity, gas, water, cable, telephone companies

Health Care Providers: name/phone numbers for all your family’s doctors, providers, caretakers

Medication Lists: name, dose, prescriber name/phone, and reason why you are taking it (example: for high blood pressure)

Review with your family how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity. Turn off utilities only if you suspect lines are damaged or if you are instructed to do so. If the gas line is turned off, it needs to be turned back on by a professional and you should not attempt it yourself. Your family may also want to consider taking a first aid and/or CPR course to familiarize yourselves with the process in case of an emergency.

It is very important to create an Emergency Supply Kit, preferably in a large sturdy duffle bag or a new covered trash can with wheels and a lid. Keep the heavier items and the clothing/bedding on the bottom, the food in the middle, and the lighter items on the top. Here is a good checklist:

• Bottled water: at least a 3 day supply, which is 1-2 gallons of water per person per day

• Nonperishable food: 3 day supply, which is 1-3 lbs per person per day. Good examples: canned foods (don’t forget the non-electric can opener), dry milk, nuts, crackers, dried fruit, peanut butter, granola, etc.

• Plastic cooking utensils

• Battery or crank powered radio (some even come with a flashlight as a dual functioning bonus): to listen for news/messages

• Extra batteries

• Flashlight

• Blankets

• Poncho/Rain Gear

• Sturdy shoes

• Warm Clothing, Gloves, Jacket

• Prescription Medications: at least a 7 day supply.

• Non-Prescription Medications: ibuprofen, acetaminophen, antacids

• First Aid Kit: gauze, bandages, tape, scissors, disinfectants, latex gloves, antibiotic ointment

• Personal Hygiene Products: toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, soap.

• Special Items: for infants, pets, or people with disabilities.

• Extra pair of eye glasses

• Credit Card & Cash (preferably small bills or quarter rolls)

• Extra plastic trash bags

• A whistle: to use if trapped or threatened

• Matches (in a waterproof container)

• Swiss Army Knife/Multipurpose Knife

• A small fire extinguisher (ABC type)

• A wrench: for gas valve 10-inche (25 cm)

• Duct Tape

• List of important phone numbers: family/friends/neighbors, credit cards, banks, licenses

• Important Documents: wills, insurance, investments, birth certificates, household inventory/photos. Place these in a water and fire-proof container.

• Photos of your high-value belongings: this would be for insurance purposes.

• A copy of your family emergency plan

Make sure to note expiration dates on foods, water, and medications and replace them accordingly. Non-perishable foods often need to be replaced every 6 months. In general, it’s a good idea to review your emergency plan with your family every 6 months, and revisit your emergency supply kit at the same time.

Be prepared, don’t have regrets. And most importantly, stay calm.

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