Forum urges: Be ready for any disaster

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Don't forget the duct tape.

In light of recent national terror warnings, disaster preparedness has been on a lot of people's minds lately. However, being prepared for both natural and man-made disasters should be an everyday priority.

That message was stressed repeatedly Saturday at Kenai Peninsula College during a disaster preparedness forum, "In Time of Need -- Securing Alaskan Lives." The forum, sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Service and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, was designed to illustrate the need for people to be prepared for the worse -- even in times of relative calm.

"We really want to get the word out about general preparedness," said Cooperative Extension agent Linda Tannehill.

The idea, she said, is to make sure people know a disaster can strike at any time, and people should take the time to prepare for basic disaster needs.

"Sometimes it takes some time and money to put together a 72-hour kit," she said.

The forum focused on showing people how to prepare to be without basic services for at least three days. The need to have basic amenities on hand -- things like food, water, batteries, a radio, extra clothing, matches and yes, even duct tape -- was repeatedly stressed as essential to surviving emergency situations.

Presenters showed participants various methods for storing food and water, securing a stable shelter, cooking food and maintaining basic disaster kits. The idea, said borough Emergency Manager David Gibbs, is that people should be ready to survive entirely on their own -- without electricity, transportation or communication with the outside world. That's especially important in Alaska, where the climate can turn a dangerous situation deadly in a quick hurry.

"People need to consider our unique climate," Gibbs said.

Besides the challenge of being cut off from civilization, people need to be aware that basic services may take longer to get up and running after a major disaster, such as a large earthquake.

"The fact that it's a rural area means people could be isolated for extended periods of time," he said.

Despite the challenges of living in a remote area, Gibbs said Alaskans may actually be more prepared for living without modern amenities.

"Our location is both a weakness and a strength," he said. "Some people may be more set up for living on their own."

The bottom line, however, is for residents to make sure they're ready when disaster strikes. That's what the purpose of the forum was, and what Gibbs said he hoped participants would get from the day-long event.

"These things can happen just like that," he said. "Hopefully, people will take away from this an appreciation for the need to be prepared."

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