Don't panic, plan; disaster can strike any time, any place


Posted: Friday, December 26, 2003

For much of the holiday week, the nation has been at "Code Orange" status, an increased terror-threat level. Oil facilities in Alaska have been considered possible targets.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake on Monday rocked California's central coast toppling buildings in Paso Robles and killing at least two.

And earlier in the week much of the central Kenai Peninsula was digging out from under about a foot of fresh snow.

Seemingly unrelated, these events should cause all peninsula residents to consider anew if they are ready if or, more likely, when a disaster strikes.

That disaster could be anything out of the ordinary from a severe snowstorm that knocks out power for an extended length of time to an attack by terrorists. One thing is for sure, however: When one lives in a place where earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, snow, ice and wildfires not to mention the potential for human-caused disaster are all part of the fabric of life, it's foolish not to be prepared.

Or, as one Red Cross official put it: Don't panic, plan.

That personal preparation not only will minimize damage to people and property, it also will free disaster-response workers to concentrate their efforts where they are most needed. A good rule of thumb in planning for disaster is that you and your family should be able to be self-sufficient for at least three days.

An emergency kit should include bottled water (one gallon per person per day); nonperishable and canned foods; a first-aid kit; prescription and nonprescription medications; a battery-powered radio; battery-powered flashlights; extra batteries; disposable plates and utensils; a manual can opener; utility knife; personal hygiene items; bedding and clothing, including rain gear; food and supplies for pets; games and books for children; and paper and pencil.

It's a good idea to keep essentials, such as a flashlight and sturdy shoes, by the bedside.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests the following food items for your kit: ready-to-eat meats, fruits and vegetables; canned or boxed juices and soup; peanut butter and jelly; low-sodium crackers; granola bars; trail mix; vitamins; foods for infants or family members on a special diet; cookies and hard candy; and instant coffee, cereals and powdered milk. Food items should be replaced every six months, and all food items should be dated.

In case residents must evacuate, emergency kits should be ready to "grab and go," recommends FEMA. Back-packs, duffel bags or a large, covered trash container can be used to keep the supplies together.

Remember, it is too late to pull your supplies together after a disaster strikes.

In addition to having a disaster kit, first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes can help prepare residents for the worst. Residents also should know how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity at their homes. They also should draw up an escape plan for their home; each room should have two escape routes.

Family members should arrange an out-of-state contact they can call if they get split up by an emergency.

FEMA also recommends having a disaster supply kit at work, as well as a car kit of emergency supplies. In addition to food and water, the car kit should include flares, jumper cables, sand, shovel and extra winter clothing.

The message of emergency officials is that personal preparation and individual responsibility are keys to weathering a disaster calmly. Emergency officials won't be able to meet everyone's needs immediately, and they will not be able to provide shelter and food for everyone in the event of a major disaster. The more people can care for themselves, the better off the entire community will be.

As we prepare to enter a new year, we hope peninsula residents will make and keep this one resolution: Prepare a disaster kit for your family and pets.

We don't want to sound like doom-sayers, but we do believe a little preparation can go a long way in making sure calm prevails during any storm. Cool heads take the heat out of any crisis.

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