Red Cross: Preparation saves lives, property in times of disaster

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2004

September is National Preparedness Month, and the American Red Cross is spending the month reminding Americans how they can work in advance to keep themselves, their families and their property safe in an emergency or disaster.

Sheltering in place

In the event of a chemical or airborne hazard, residents may be asked to take shelter where they are. The Red Cross offers a few tips for such situations:

Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.

Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.

Close the fireplace dam-per.

Get your disaster supplies kit out and make sure the radio is working.

Go to an interior room without windows that is above ground level. (In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.)

Using duct tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.

Listen to your radio or television for further instructions. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas.

On Saturday, Red Cross offices in Alaska -- including the one in Soldotna -- will host events and activities to help promote preparedness on "Together We Prepare Day."

In Soldotna, the Red Cross will offer two classes to help residents prepare for an emergency. An adult first aid and CPR class will be offered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Kenai River Center for a discounted price of $15. In addition, an instructors' class, certifying participants to teache adult first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillator use) will be offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Building for $225. To register for either class, call Annette Hakkinen at 262-4541.

In the meantime, Red Cross representatives say peninsula residents can help themselves prepare for emergencies or disasters by being aware of potential dangers and taking five simple steps.

According to a recent nationwide survey, only two in 10 Americans feel "very prepared" for a catastrophic event. Specifically, only half of parents surveyed knew the disaster plans of their child's school or daycare and a similar half of those polled were familiar with the disaster plan at their work places.

Just 10 percent of American households have their own family emergency plan, disaster kits and training in first aid and CPR. But nearly 70 percent say they believe it's "very important" to be prepared for a disaster.

So, start now.

The Red Cross suggests the following five steps to preparing for an emergency. More information is available from the American Red Cross of the Kenai Peninsula, 145 Kasilof St. in Soldotna, by phone at 262-4541 or online at www.alaska. redcross.org.

Make a plan

Planning ahead is the first step to a calmer and more assured disaster response.

Talk. Discuss with your family the disasters that can happen where you live. Establish responsibilities for each member of you household and plan to work together as a team. Designate alternates in case someone is absent.

Plan. Choose two places to meet after a disaster: right outside your home, in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire; and outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood.

Learn. Each adult in your household should learn how and when to turn off utilities such as electricity, water and gas. Ask someone at the fire department to show you how to use the fire extinguisher you store in your home.

Check supplies. Review your disaster supplies and replace water and food every six months. (More information on disaster supplies appears in the following section.)

Tell. Let everyone in the household know where emergency contact information is kept. Make copies for everyone to carry with them. Be sure to include an out-of-town contact. It may be easier to call out of area is local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Keep the information updated.

Practice. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on a map in case main roads are impassable or gridlocked. Practice earthquake, tornado and fire drills at home, school and work.

Build a kit

What you have on hand when a disaster happens can make a big difference. Plan to store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three days.

Water. Have at least one gallon per person per day.

Food. Pack nonperishable, high protein items, including energy bars, ready to eat soup, peanut butter, etc. Select food that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water.

Flashlight. Include extra batteries.

First aid kit. Pack a reference guide.

Medications. Don't forget prescriptions and nonprescription items.

Battery-operated radio. Include extra batteries.

Tools. Assemble a wrench to turn off gas if necessary, a manual can opener, a screwdriver, hammer, pliers, a knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting and garbage bags and ties.

Clothing. Provide a change of clothes for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves.

Personal items.Remember eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution, copies of important papers, including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc; and comfort items such as toys and books.

Sanitary supplies. You'll want toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, bleach, etc.

Money. Have cash. (ATMs and credit cards won't work if power is out.)

Contact information. Carry a current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses, including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach if local phone lines are out of service or overloaded.

Pet supplies. Include food, water, leash, litter box or plastic bags, tags, any medications and vaccination information.

Maps. Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area.

Also include any necessary items for infants, seniors and people with disabilities in your kit. Store your disaster supplies in a sturdy but easy-to-carry container. A large covered trash container, overnight backpack or a duffle bag will work. Keep a smaller version of the kit in your vehicle. If you become stranded or are not able to return home, having some items with you will help you be more comfortable until help arrives.

Get trained

Learning simple first aid techniques can give you the skills and confidence to help anyone in your home, your neighborhood and at work.

When a major disaster occurs, your community can change in an instant. Loved ones can be hurt and emergency response can be delayed. Make sure that at least one number of your household is trained in first aid and CPR and in how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

The three steps below can help you to react well in an emergency:

Check the scene for safety and the victim for life-threatening conditions.

Call 911 or your local emergency number and request professional assistance.

Care for the victim if you can reach the person safely.

Community disaster education presentations can provide you with more information on how to prepare for disasters.

Contact the American Red Cross of Alaska at 262-4541 for class descriptions, time, costs and information about first aid, CPR, AED, and Community Disaster Education.

Volunteer

Few Americans are untouched by Red Cross services -- all made possible by volunteers, people like you. Our communities need our help. There are so many needs and as many ways to serve.

More than 2,105 Alaskans serve their communities by volunteering with the American Red Cross of Alaska. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds and are of all ages. Red Cross volunteers help people in emergencies; they teach first aid classes; organize blood drives; and translate so that non-English speakers can receive Red Cross services. They connect members of the armed forces stationed overseas with their families. Our vital community services are made possible by people like you. Contact the Red Cross today and ask how you can help.

Give blood

Blood is needed in time of emergency, but the ongoing need also is great.

Every two seconds someone needs a blood transfusion, including cancer patients, accident victims, premature infants and people with chronic diseases.

Your blood donation means so much to individuals who need it and you can help make a difference.

Giving blood doesn't take much time. During times of crisis and every day, each blood donation has the power to help save as many as three lives. But whole blood only has a shelf life of 42 days. That is why it is so important to be a regular and frequent donor. America needs to have an adequate blood supply available at all times to meet any of the challenges we might face.

Contact the Blood Bank of Alaska today to find out how you can help. www.bloodbankofalaska.org



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