Preparation key to weathering disaster

Posted: Saturday, March 04, 2000

One of the most important steps toward being prepared for any disaster is having supplies on hand.

Emergency and disaster groups constantly tell the public to put together a "disaster kit" with everything they may need for at least three days. If this is done, people will be able to make it through the worst part of a disaster's aftermath relatively unscathed.

Debra Holle, Kenai Peninsula coordinator for the American Red Cross, said although preparation is not difficult, most people don't put enough stress on getting ready for the unknown.

"Some people think it's ridiculous to think of any disaster," she said. "They should not put it last on the list to be prepared."

Holle suggests one person in every household oversee the preparation.

"Someone has to be kind of in charge of it," she said. "Someone has to have an understanding of the shelf life of everything."

The family member in charge need not be a parent, she said. Older children can do the job, too.

"You can make it kind of a fun project," said Holle.

When bombarded with lists and envisioning an unfathomable disaster, it may be difficult to decide what to store.

John Alcantra, of the borough's Emergency Management Office, said some people are tempted into buying specialty food and accessories marketed as "disaster ready."

However, Alcantra said those products, though convenient and easy to store, may wind up going uneaten should the unforeseen occur.

"Too many people think you have to have this big, elaborate system," Alcantra said.

Holle concurred, saying it is better to store only what your family already eats and is familiar with.

"The main thing is knowing what your family will eat," she said. "It makes no sense to plan ahead and put something on your shelf that your family isn't interested in."

Holle also said it is important to have treats as well as nutritious foods.

"For morale, it's good to have pick-you-up things," she said.

For example, Holle and Alcantra both admitted to keeping a few of their favorite chocolate bars stashed in case of emergency.

Holle said another common reason people delay putting together a disaster kit is expense. To combat this, she emphasizes stocking up a little at a time, as things go on sale and budgets allow.

"Do what you can afford to do. Don't put yourself in a financial crisis," she said. "You have to be prudent."

She advises adding a little extra to your grocery list each time you go shopping, perhaps buying two jars of peanut butter instead of one.

Disaster kits should be assembled and stored in a cool, safe place easily accessible. They can be stored in anything large enough to safely hold everything. Most frequently recommended are duffel bags, backpacks and large, tightly lidded plastic containers varying from 5-gallon tubs to 33-gallon garbage cans.

Included in disaster kits should be food and water for at least three days, a complete first aid kit, prescription medications, spare contact lenses or eyeglasses, toiletries and battery-operated radio and flashlights with spare batteries. Also suggested are playing cards or other diversions to help pass time. For a complete list, see page 5.

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