“If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.”† Dalai Lama
Home sick, watching the world news on TV, Kleenex soaked with tears of sympathy and a runny nose, my friend Christine phones in the updates to me on a daily basis. She is most impressed with how the Japanese people are picking up their lives and pitching in to clean up the destruction caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami. We talk about how we would react if a natural disaster were to occur in our community. We agree that our community should be prepared way ahead of time to survive an act of nature. We are aware that taking the steps to do so makes sense, but too often those best intentions succumb to human procrastination and might never get done.
According to Oxfam International each year brings 400-500 natural disasters worldwide, up from 125 a year in the 1980′s.† By 2015 we can expect a 54 percent increase in the number of people (375 million) affected by climate disasters and this could overwhelm humanitarian organizations’ ability to respond quickly. There is no way to know where or when a natural disaster will occur, or if it will happen as a flood, a hurricane, a tornado, or an earthquake. However, rather than feel helpless and anxious, you can take some important steps to prepare your environment for the possibility. Once you know you have done everything you can, then relax and get on with living your life. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has published a check-list of things each and everyone can do in case of an emergency. Read the excerpt on the next page.
Create an emergency plan
The best defense from any disaster is good preparation. Once you are aware of what types of disasters might affect your community, you may want to hold a family meeting to discuss the need for preparation. Explain the dangers of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes to children in terms they can understand. Explain that planning ensures that the family will stay together in case of an emergency. Plan to share responsibilities and work as a team.
Meet with household members to discuss the types of emergencies that may affect your area. Explain how to respond, and find safe spots in the home for each type of disaster.
- Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.
- Draw a floor plan of your home. Mark two escape routes from each room.
- Show family members how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at main switches when necessary.
- Post emergency phone numbers near phones. Teach children how and when to call 911, police, and fire.
- Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information.
- Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative for family members to call if separated during a disaster (it is often easier to call out-of-state than within the disaster area). Teach these phone numbers to each family member, including children and older adults.
- Pick two emergency meeting places
- a place near the home in case of fire
- a place outside the neighborhood in case family members canít return home
- Take a basic first aid and CPR class.
- Keep family records in a waterproof and fireproof container.
- Create a Disaster Supplies Kit. Include a flotation vest for each member of the family if the area is prone to floods.
- Keep fuel in your car at all times and stock it with a Car Emergency Supplies Kit.
Create a disaster supplies kit
Keep enough supplies in your home to meet all basic needs for at least three days. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items that you might need if you are homebound or forced to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy containers such as backpacks, duffle bags, or covered trash cans. Prepare a smaller Car Emergency Supplies Kit and keep it in the car trunk.
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day) and food that wonít spoil
- Include a manual can opener, and any pet food and supplies you might need
- One change of clothing and footwear per person, and one blanket or sleeping bag per person
- A first aid kit that includes prescription medications
- Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, plenty of extra batteries, and a utility knife
- An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or travelerís checks
- Personal care supplies (toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, etc.)
- Any special items or equipment for infants, or for older or disabled family members (formula, diapers, denture or eye care supplies, etc.)
- An extra pair of eyeglasses
- Important family documents in a waterproof container
Car emergency supplies kit
- Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
- Booster cables
- Fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C type)
- First aid kit and manual
- Bottled water and non-perishable, high-energy foods like granola bars and raisins
- Maps, shovel, and flares
- Tire repair kit and pump
Take each list and over the course of days and weeks check off what you have accomplished. Once you are complete you can put any worries aside and get on with your life. You know you are prepared and that is the best you can do for right now. For the full list from FEMA click HERE.