What if an earthquake struck while the children were at school and you were at work, or a flood destroyed your home? What if a chemical spill required your family to stay in the home for an extended period of time?
According to Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension associate professor, the fear of not knowing what to do, how to gather and care for loved ones and how to survive until help arrives is often more traumatizing than the actual disaster. By preparing now for a disaster, families can diminish fear and loss in the event of a calamity.
September is National Preparedness Month, a great time for people to begin designing a family preparedness plan. The Ready Campaign and Citizen Corp organizations are now in their 10th year of encouraging awareness and preparedness for families and are helpful resources.
Disasters affect thousands of people every year in the United States and worldwide, disrupting daily functions and leaving lasting effects, but the American Red Cross reports that only 65 percent of American’s have emergency preparedness plans in place.
“When families have a plan in place, each family member can feel a sense of security and have the necessary tools to survive,” said Washburn. “For Utah, the biggest threat is a major earthquake; however, the most common occurrences are floods, which affect and destroy many homes and properties each year, and wildfires that rage throughout the state projecting heat, ash and smoke. It may be impossible for your family to prepare for all disasters, but they should be informed of the most likely disasters and have a plan in place.”
Washburn recommends building an emergency plan with the following:
- Points of contact — Make sure that family members know how and where to reunite with each other.
- Secure food — Begin with a 3-week supply and then work toward building a longer-term supply.
- Additional items — Include batteries, flashlights, gas and portable radio.
- 72-96 hour emergency kits — Have one for each family member (including pets) and one for each vehicle. According to Cindy Nelson, USU Extension assistant professor, the following contents should be included: first aid kit, including basic first aid supplies and necessary medications for allergies, pain, etc.; snacks, water, non-perishable foods and a can opener; water bottle with a purifier or a filter so water from a stream or melted snow can be used; emergency thermal blanket to provide warmth or shelter; warm clothing including gloves; microfiber towels that are highly absorbent and quick drying and/or compressed towels to save space; tissues or toilet paper; diapers for those with young children; matches or a lighter; cash (small bills); notebook and pen; contact information for family members, doctor, insurance, mechanic, etc., either on a piece of paper or stored in a cell phone; and car charger for cell phone as well as a backup charger that is either battery or solar powered.
According to the National Terror Alert Response Center, no matter who you are or where you live, you can be touched or devastated by a calamity, terrorist attack or natural disaster. Preparing for an emergency now provides the best chance of survival. Emergency preparedness should always be considered in the home, workplace and school.
“Once you are prepared, help others build their emergency plans so we have safe, strong communities,” Washburn said.
Writer: Julene Reese, 435-797-0810, Julene.firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Carolyn Washburn, 435-634-2692, Carolyn.email@example.com