Americans today are generally not as prepared to weather adversity as were their parents and grandparents just a generation or two ago. In many ways we have become a "light switch" society, relying on the flip of a switch to provide for our comfort and well-being. Where just a generation ago there was a garden or a chicken coup, now there is a pool and or garage. While progress is important, what we have lost in many ways is the ability to provide for ourselves for even short periods of time. This becomes painfully obvious when people are struck with the devastation of a storm or other calamity.
For planning purposes, and to aid your own sense of self sufficiency, Emergency Management Agencies recommend adequate supplies be set aside to support each occupant of your household for a minimum of 72 hours. This means having water, food, and emergency supplies stockpiled for each member of your family. A good idea is to store your supplies in a backpack or duffel bag so that if you are forced to evacuate your residence, you can take these items with you to a shelter area.
Items you should stockpile are:
At least one gallon per person per day. Also have boxed, bottled, powdered juice and drink mixes; boxed, powdered, canned milk; breakfast drinks, soda.
Ready-to-eat (non-perishable). If you cannot open the container with a bottle opener, manual can opener, pull ring, by twisting or unwrapping -- Do Not buy it for your stockpile!
Include: canned fruit, vegetables, soup, pudding, potted meats, stew, hash, tuna; produce (potatoes, thick skinned fruit); baby formula and food (pre-mixed only); instant hot cereals; bread products; granola bars; complete pancake mix; crackers; graham crackers; cookies; and miscellaneous food items such as pet food, mustard and ketchup, peanut butter, jelly, ground and instant coffee, hot cocoa/chocolate mix, tea bags, cooking oil.
- Communications, Lighting, Safety Items
Battery operated radio/tv; flashlights; extra batteries; lantern and fuel; matches; fire extinguisher; work gloves; shovel.
- Clothing and Bedding
One complete change of clothing for each person (suitable for the season); extra socks, underwear; outer-wear (rain gear, poncho, sweater, jacket or coat); pillows; sleeping bag or two blankets per person.
- Personal Hygiene Items
Soap; toothpaste; toothbrush; dental floss; washcloth; towel; shaving kit; hair care items; sanitary napkins/tampons; diapers.
- Miscellaneous Items
First aid supplies, including prescription medications; charcoal/lighter fluid; hand can opener; baby wipes; toilet paper; paper towels; trash bags; disposable plates/bowls and silverware. One miscellaneous item often overlooked is cash. ATMs are convenient but in the case of a power outage they are inaccessible; and so are check approval agencies accessed through telephone lines. Set aside a realistic (for your situation) amount of cash to facilitate purchase of critically needed items.
You should add to this list as you deem necessary. But remember, the intent is to be self sufficient for at least 72 hours after a storm or other disaster. Preparedness begins at home.
Plan and prepare for emergencies.
Take precautions against possible disasters in your region such as hurricane, tornado, flash flood, fire, winter storm, earthquake and hazardous material spill.
- prepare for each disaster.
- learn/know evacuation routes.
- register with the county's special needs registry.
- know where to take shelter in your home.
- know what to do for power outages
- know how to turn off utilities in your home
- keep your vehicle serviced and fueled
- have a small battery operated portable radio
- inventory property - take photos. Safeguard
- safeguard important papers (waterproof): birth/death certificates, marriage papers, insurance policies, bankbooks/account numbers, deeds, stocks/bonds, etc
- maintain medical records and copies of prescriptions.
- prepare a disaster supplies kit. Buy items throughout the year. During emergencies prices increase and there are shortages.
- Plan and prepare for infants, pets and service animals. Consider the needs of infants and animals.
- infants: have formula, diapers/ wipes, bottles, powdered milk/formula and medications(s) for at least 7 days.
- personal comfort items: consider quiet toys for children, games, cards and books.
- pets/service animals: have food and water, leash/ harness, id tags, litter pan and medication(s).
Prepare a disaster supplies kit. Keep items in a duffel bag for a portable container.
- water: bottled or in a sealed container - one gallon per person per day. Keep a minimum of three gallons on hand per person.
- food for 72 hours: canned meat, fruits, vegetables, peanut butter and packaged ready-to-eat food etc.
- first aid kit: bandaids, antiseptic, gauze pads, needle, tweezers, adhesive tape, safety pins and aspirin/ tylenol.
- flashlight with plenty of extra batteries.
- non-electric can opener/ utility knife.
- fire extinguisher: a small abc type.
- matches in a waterproof container and candles.
- clothing: one complete change of clothes, sturdy shoes or boots, and rain gear. Winter: knit cap, thermal underwear, wool socks and gloves.
- sleeping bag or blankets.
- paper/styrofoam plates, cups and plastic flatware.
- tools to shut off utilities. Multipurpose/ leatherman.
- personal hygiene kit: soap, toothbrush/paste, washcloth, towel, razor, feminine supplies and shower shoes.
- extra batteries for radio and other equipment.
- sealable plastic container(s) and large zip-lock bags.
- pencil and paper. Optional: ice chest/cooler.
Protect yourself and property
- Take the following precautions for likely emergencies in the region.
- Hurricanes and tornadoes
- hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible within 24 hours.
- hurricane warning means a hurricane is expected to strike within 24 hours or less.
- trim back limbs on trees around your home.
- secure outdoor furniture, grill, tools, etc.
- protect windows with shutters, plywood or duct tape to prevent shattering.
- wedge sliding glass doors to prevent them from lifting off their tracks.
- stay home if your home is sturdy and on high ground.
- fill bottles and clean bathtubs with water for drinking and sanitation. Make extra ice to preserve food.
- stay indoors in the middle of the house and away from windows. Bathrooms and closets are good places.
- keep pets/service animals safe with you at home.
- turn off utilities only if ordered by officials. If gas is turned off, only a professional should turn it back on.
- if residing in a mobile home or trailer, plan on evacuating.
- install battery-powered smoke detector(s) outside each sleeping area and on each floor. Test them monthly.
- keep a fire extinguisher in/ near the kitchen.
- plan escape routes from each room.
- practice escape routes from your home.
- establish a family meeting place outside your home.
- once out, never go back in a burning structure.
- types of flood alerts :
- flood watch: means flooding is possible.
- flood warning: means flooding is imminent or one has been reported.
- flash floods: can occur without warning.
- learn the flood history of your area.
- know your elevation above flood stage.
- stay indoors - upstairs.
- move valuables to a higher location.
- do not attempt to drive over a flooded road.
- do not by-pass road blocks.
- avoid strenuous activity.
- stay indoors as much as possible.
- drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- learn the signs of heat emergencies and how to treat them.
- have extra blankets on hand.
- stay indoors.
- winterize your vehicle.
- avoid unnecessary travel.
- walk carefully on icy and snowy surfaces.
- keep the following items in your vehicle during the winter months: blankets, sets of warm clothing, wool cap, wool mittens/gloves, jumper cables, flashlight with fresh batteries, small shovel, sack of sand or kitty litter for traction, a length of rope and a bright colored cloth to tie on the antenna in an emergency.
Evacuate if necessary
- Follow instructions of local officials. Do not forget medication(s) and medical supplies.
- notify family/friend, caregiver or provider. Give name, address and phone number where you are going.
- monitor a radio for advisories, evacuation routes, locations of shelters and special instructions.
- wear protective clothing/equipment and sturdy shoes.
- take your disaster supply kit.
- comply with shelter rules. Cooperate with personnel.
- arrange for pets or leave with adequate water and food in a safe and confined area of the home.
- take important documents, a photo id, cash and change ($100-$150). Atm's will not work during power outages. Consider taking small valuables with you (i.e. jewelry).
- lock your home.
Actions after a disaster
Drive only if necessary. Drive carefully. Do not sightsee.
- do not by-pass road blocks. Watch for dangling electrical wires and flooded areas.
- report broken or damaged electrical, sewer and water lines.
- use caution re-entering home. Check for gas leaks. Check food and water for spoilage.
- notify family/friends, caregiver and provider.
- notify your insurance agent of any losses.
Sources: American Red Cross (ARC); Cumberland County Department of Social Services policy and procedures for special needs and mass shelters.