“The best preparation for the future is the present well seen to.” – George McDonald
Since 9/11, Rita Ready had a plan for her family in case of a terrorist attack: everyone was to head to Aunt Alma’s in the country and call Momma in Mississippi as soon as they were safe. Good for Rita; she’s more prepared than most of us. But while the average American has a one in ten million chance of being killed by a terrorist, we have a one in 68,000 chance of dying at the hands of Mother Nature. What Rita doesn’t know could hurt her.
September is National Preparedness Month, a nationwide effort sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools.
The most time-consuming and important activity is formulating a plan and gathering information.
Make a Plan
Each person’s needs are unique, but we all should begin with the basics when preparing for a possible emergency situation. Think in order of importance: fresh water, food and warmth. Consider the following:
- What resources do I (or those I care for) use daily, and what can we do if they aren’t available?
- Get an emergency supply kit
- Plan in advance for shelter alternatives outside your immediate area in case you need to evacuate. Consider any pets, and make plans for them.
- Be sure to have at least a week’s supply of any medications or treatments in your emergency kit.
- Make copies of important documents for your emergency kit. Keep these in a waterproof container.
The Emergency Kit
So you’ve got a plan; now for the kit. Most of the preparation for your family emergency kit can be done, thank goodness, while you go about your regular day. Adding basic items like bottled water, flashlights and batteries to your shopping list requires few brain cells. It helps to have a designated collection site where you can dump stuff as you collect it—one of those flat, under-the-bed plastic storage boxes works great.
First the basics:
- Water: you’ll need one gallon per person, per day. Enough for three days. Use pre-bottled or put clean plastic soda bottles to good use.
- Food: have a three-day supply of non-perishable food that doesn’t require cooking or water. Avoid salty foods.
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Dust mask, to filter contaminated air
- Moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener, if using canned food
When I made our family’s kit, I added a deck of cards, a long-burning emergency candle and feminine products. If your home is like mine and often shelters three or four generations, consider the needs of the very young as well as the elderly: diapers and infant formula. A great resource is www.ready.gov. They have a comprehensive section of ideas for every situation.
Because our family lives less than a mile from a railroad track and within a couple of miles of an interstate, I chose to follow the plan for the ‘shelter-in-place’ on the web site, basically guidelines for sealing a room in your home to block out airborne contaminates. Statistically, our family has a greater chance a semi-truck or railcar accident will spill chlorine gas or some other hazardous material than of terrorist-released small pox. If you live in an urban setting or a densely populated area, decide what your family’s biggest risk is, and plan accordingly.
By making a plan and an emergency kit for your family and those you care for, you can have one less thing on that checklist in your mind. These easy steps will leave anyone responsible for the care of others prepared, and that preparation will breed confidence; a confidence that you have one less thing to worry about. And that can ease the burden on your shoulders just a bit.
By: Cindy Morrow