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Be ready if disaster strikes

Posted: Monday, February 07, 2005

Building Stronger, Safer, Better Prepared Communities on the Kenai Peninsula

A wise person once told me, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," meaning that in any problem or challenge, I can choose to which side I will contribute: the problem side or the solution side.

Disaster preparedness is not just the problem of our governments, our hospitals or our schools. As we've witnessed recently in Southeast Asia, it is everyone's problem and something each of us can take steps to prevent or prepare for.

This column is the first in a monthly series focused on emergency and disaster preparedness for Kenai Peninsula residents.

Our communities face particular and numerous natural and man-made disaster possibilities, from the recently highlighted earthquakes and tsunamis to volcanic ash, flooding, avalanches, severe winter weather and raging wildfires.

Fortunately, Alaskans as a group tend to be a hardy, resourceful bunch. Having said that, there are still many things we can do to minimize our risks — personally, materially and as a community. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

There are three basic steps to disaster preparedness: get a plan, get a kit and get informed.

Get a plan

Disaster can strike at any time. If an earthquake hits at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, where will you be? Where will your spouse, partner or children be?

Where will you meet? How will you get there? What if the phone lines are down? Making a family disaster plan is as easy as answering a few questions.

Put it all in writing (the Red Cross and FEMA have produced a handy worksheet to walk you through your plan) and give everyone a copy. Talk about it together as a household, so that everyone has input as to how the plan will work for them.

Get a kit

If you've seen the movie, "Blast from the Past," (1999, Newline Cinema) this step may conjure up images of the Webber family's underground bunker, stocked for decades of survival.

A disaster kit doesn't need to include everything but the kitchen sink. Just put the essentials (warm clothes, ready-to-eat food, three days' water for each person, prescription medications, etc.) in a duffel bag or backpack. Keep your kit somewhere easy to find, like the trunk of the car or next to the back door and make sure everyone in the house knows where his or her kit is.

Get informed.

Learn about the potential for disasters in your area. After you've learned what conditions you should consider, look into classes that are available to help you gain valuable skills like first aid, CPR, basic search and rescue, and small fire suppression.

For more information about disaster risks on the Kenai Peninsula, call the borough's Office of Emergency Management at 262-4910 or go to its Web site at www.borough. kenai.ak.us/emergency.

To find out about classes or to get worksheets to help you develop a family disaster plan or kit, call the Kenai Peninsula Citizen Corps at 262-2098 or peninsula's Red Cross chapter at 262-4541.

Kimberly Lorentzen is the Kenai Peninsula Citizen Corps Coordinator at the borough's Office of Emergency Management. She can be reached at klorentzen@borough.kenai.ak.us.



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