September is National Preparedness Month and the American Red Cross is reminding each person to make a kit, have a plan, and stay informed to protect themselves in an emergency.
Red Cross Community Preparedness and Resilience Specialist Scott Keyes said the first step to being prepared for any emergency is gathering together a 72-hour kit. While the Red Cross typically has shelters built within 24 hours of an emergency, sometimes people are trapped in their homes and a 72-hour kit can really help.
The kit should include food for all members of the family, including pets; any medical supplies; supplies needed for children; water, one gallon per person per day; a flashlight; a hand-cranked radio (some even come with a place to plug in a phone charger in the back); a first aid kit; sanitation items; cash; a pocket knife; medical records, especially pet vaccine records; a copy of family telephone numbers; an emergency blanket and copies of personal documents, either on paper or scanned and saved on a flash drive.
Keyes said the Red Cross has an emergency pack available for purchase on its website, but that most people already have all the necessary items in their home. The key is having those items in one bag, ready to grab and go.
Emergency packs should be updated every six months, especially for families with young children whose needs change over time.
“When a disaster strikes it’s chaotic,” Keyes said. “You’re going to be trying to organize your family and get everyone together. The last thing you want to have to do is rifle through your bathroom cabinets looking for different things. Chances are you’ll never need this kit, but the worst thing to do is not be prepared and not have this kit ready.”
The next step is to have a plan. The plan should include a meeting place, both near home and away from home, in the case of an emergency. Each family member should have each other’s phone numbers written down and an out-of-town relative’s number.
“If something big does happen everyone is going to try to place phone calls like crazy,” Keyes said. “With Katrina and Sandy there were so many calls going on the phone lines couldn’t handle it and actually shut down. You could, however, call long distance. The secret is to have a long distance contact everyone knows who you can call and can be a relay point for information. With some new technology you can actually update Facebook or social media before you can make a call sometimes. If you have those, tell people to check on there.”
Being informed happens before and after an emergency. Keyes said people should be aware of the kind of natural disasters that might hit their area and know when to take action. It’s also good to stay up to date on first aid and CPR training.
The Red Cross has developed a series of apps. There are several apps specific to different types of natural disasters. Those apps will send out warnings when a tornado or hurricane is near and once a disaster does strike the apps have a list of Red Cross shelter locations. There is also a first aid app that has directions and tips for all kinds of emergencies.
The Red Cross responds to a disaster every 14 hours. More than 90 percent of those disasters are home fires that affect only one family, but can leave them devastated. Having an emergency kit with vital information, a plan to get out and information on what to do next can really help any situation.
For more information, visit redcross.org.
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