Is Kenai Peninsula prepared for any emergency?

Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2006

If nothing else, Wednesday’ early morning eruptions of Augustine Volcano were good reminders to get prepared for anything, if we aren’t already. Evidence that there are at least a few procrastinators who live among us was seen in the dust masks selling off store shelves. Augustine has been restless for weeks. We’ve had plenty of time to get ready. But there’s no time like the present, right?

The activity Wednesday may have been just the kick in the pants some needed to think seriously about whether our families, homes and work places are prepared for an emergency, whether it be an ashfall, a tsunami or something else. Do we have emergency supplies on hand? Do we know what to do to minimize harm to our health and damage to our electronic gear and equipment if ash starts falling? Do we know how to properly care for our pets? Do we know where to access information so we can keep up with what’s happening and not burden emergency personnel with questions? Do we know what the plan is if disaster strikes when kids are in school and parents are at work?

As of this writing, it appears that the Homer area -- indeed the Kenai Peninsula -- will escape any ashfall from Wednesday’ eruptions. While that’s good reason to breathe easier for the time being, it’s wise to remember that activity at Augustine is likely to continue. There’s one sure bet that can be made about Mother Nature: She’s unpredictable. Far better to be prepared for the worst and have nothing happen than not be prepared at all and have the worst happen. Better to get our acts together now.

The Homer Fire Department on Wednesday issued some key reminders about what to do during an ashfall that bear repeating:

· Stay indoors, particularly if you have respiratory ailments.

· Wear dust masks and eye protection. Do not wear contact lenses. If you don’t have a dust mask, cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief.

· Shut down all ventilation systems which draw outside air inside.

· Minimize all travel.

· Keep emergency supplies at home. These should include extra dust masks; enough nonperishable food for at least three days; enough drinking water for at least three days (one gallon per person per day); plastic wrap to keep ash out of electronics; a first aid kit and regular medications; a battery-operated radio with extra batteries; lanterns or flashlights with extra batteries; extra wood, if you have a fireplace or wood stove; extra blankets and warm clothing; cleaning supplies such as a broom, vacuum and shovel; and a small amount of extra cash as ATM machines may not be working.

· If you must drive during an ashfall, drive slowly, use your headlights and use plenty of windshield washer fluid. Change oil, oil filters and air filters frequently (every 50 to 100 miles in heavy dust and every 500 to 1,000 miles in light dust).

Wednesday’s activity at Augustine provides residents a chance to test their emergency preparedness. Will you be ready next time?

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