Friday, February 8, 2013

10 Tips for Emergency Preparedness

 "Red Ribbon Plan" by Pamela Owen
 
Red ribbons tied or taped to emergency supplies help you and your family identify your supplies quickly in the event of an evacuation. They are also easy to spot if someone offers to go inside your home or office to retrieve your items. When you are prepared for emergencies and have everything marked you will feel more relaxed and less anxious in bad weather or emergencies. Make an exit plan to get out of your building and plan where you will go outside of your neighborhood. Put the number of a hotel that is pet friendly and has at least a microwave and small refrigerator in the rooms in everyone's cell phone. Tell relatives about your plan to go to that hotel and give them the number as well. If there is a family member who still has a land line phone, use them a your family's "contact person." Add that number to everyone's cell phone and instruct them to call the number and let that person know where they are and if they need help. Every time you see a gallon jug of water in a store buy it. If you have pets you will need to provide water for them too. It's better to have too much clean water than not enough.
 
1. Use a rolling carry-on bag as your "72 Hour Grab and Go Bag." Fill it with things you would need if you and your family had to spend three days in an emergency shelter. The Red Cross and Fema suggest packing supplies for 72 hours or three days because it usually takes three days to clear the roads after a disaster. Pack cash in small denominations because ATM's and cash registers will not work during a power outage. Pack prescription and over the counter medications in the small, outside zipper compartment of a bag. You will need to refresh those items frequently so they should be easy to access. Pack clothing, undergarments, socks, shoes like flip flops for use in shelter showers, shoes with sturdy soles, work gloves, hats, sunscreen, toiletries, PJ's (men's work best because both genders will wear them), jackets and sweaters. Travel size game books, and toys for small children. Anything that is familiar and will bring comfort to you and your family should be included in a grab and go bag. Family photos in plastic zip lock bags. You can tell family stories to restless or scared children if you have the photos to go along with them. If you smoke or are accustomed to having cocktails in the evening pack those items too. Imagine going away for a long weekend and pack all of the things you and your family would use while away from home for three or four days. Buy a battery operated cell phone charger and extra batteries. Store these in a zip lock plastic bag. Place everything in a clear garbage bag so you can lift it out easily when you need the bag for travel.
Tie a red ribbon to the handle of your bag before storing it in your tornado or hurricane safe place, a closet near the door in case of evacuations, or in your bedroom.

2. Use reusable grocery store bags for non-perishable foods. Small boxes of cereal, granola bars, instant soup and hot chocolate mixes. Small containers of precooked rice and pull top cans of beans, pull top canned fruits and vegetables, pull top cans or packets of tuna and chicken. Imagine using what is in your bag to prepare meals in a motel room with a refrigerator and microwave. Paper bowls, plates, cups (Styrofoam for hot drinks) plastic utensils, salt and pepper and a hand crank can opener. Use a black marker to write the expiration dates on each container in large print. It will be easier to spot foods that have expired and need to be replaced. Tie a red ribbon to the handle of this bag and place it near your usual exit from your home.

3. Use an insulated reusable grocery bag for liquids like bottled water, small cartons of milk, cans of prepared coffee, juice boxes, baby formula, Ensure, etc. If you use insulin you will need to be prepared to pack it in a moment's notice. Put a note in the bag to remind you to get it out of the refrigerator. Gallon size zip lock bags are handy for filling with ice if needed. The ice will stay clean so there will be no waste. Mark the expiration dates with a black marker so it will be easy to see if they need to be thrown out and replaced. Tie a red ribbon to the handle of the bag.

4. Use a light colored reusable grocery bag or similar "stand alone" bag with handles for hygiene items. Remove the cardboard tube inside a roll of toilet paper and paper towels so they can be smashed flat. Put them in zip lock plastic bags to keep them dry. Place wet wipes, baby wipes or whatever you prefer in the bottom of the bag. Pack a first aid kit, hand sanitizer, alcohol, items like Depends and diapers. Travel size bottles of shampoo, body wash, etc. To save money buy a package of empty travel bottles, mark them with a black marker, allow the ink to dry overnight then fill with your favorite products. A few wash cloths, hand towels and bath towels should be added and wrapped in a dry cleaning bag or clear garbage bag to keep them clean and dry. Tie a red ribbon to this bag. (If you live with someone with special needs or is immobile due to age, your supplies must be customized to suit their needs.)

5. Use another reusable grocery bag or something similar for wet weather supplies. This should include rain boots, heavy socks, ponchos, umbrellas, waterproof flashlight, flares, and a small radio in a zip lock bag. Pack fresh batteries for both in a zip lock bag. Think of other things you might need if you have to walk through rain, snow or flooded streets. Tie a red ribbon to this bag.

6. Use another reusable grocery bag in a different color to pack your pet supplies. It makes sense to use a tote bag with a picture of an animal on it for easy identification. Pack pull top cans of food or bags of dry foods and mark expiration dates with a black maker. Pack bowls for food and water along with collars and leashes. Set aside gallon jugs of water just for your pets. Have all of your pets micro chipped and keep up with the membership fees each year. A microchip will help the pet be identified and returned to you if it becomes separated from you. Put a phone number of a friend or relative who lives outside your area on the information sheet. There is a good chance if your own phone is lost or destroyed your friend or relative would receive the call that your pet has been found. Tie a red ribbon to this bag also.

7. Large plastic bins can also be used to make 72 hour kits. Keep in mind that they may become heavy once they are full of supplies and will be difficult for some people to handle during an emergency. I like the idea of a rolling bag especially for Senior Citizens, children and those with physical challenges. Tape red ribbons to the sides of bins not the tops. If several are stacked together you would not be able to see a red ribbon on the lid.

8. Make two or more copies of all of your important documents like Wills, Living Wills, Pre-arranged funerals, signed cremation papers, birth and death certificates, passports, all types of insurance, genealogy and other papers that you would need if you had to replace everything you own. Place them in zip lock bags and give one of them to a trusted family member or friend. You can also use a safety deposit box to store copies of your important papers. I suggest you have someone you trust signed on the safety deposit box at a bank in the event you become ill, injured or die. Heirloom and fine jewelry should be together in a bag that can easily be pulled out of a secure place in your home and taken with you if you have to evacuate. Think about things that you wouldn't want a looter to steal, lose in a fire, blown away by high winds or get washed away by a flood. Put address stickers that most of us receive in the mail on the back of valued photos. Someone could send them back to you if found. Put all important documents in red file folders and large red envelopes. In the event of an evacuation you can easily spot your red emergency files in your filing cabinet or safe.

9. If you live or work in a high rise building you will need to carry with you a small pry tool. These small tools can fit on key chains and can pry open a stuck elevator door. If your home or building has a natural gas meter then you will need the right kind of crescent wrench to turn off the gas. If you do not know how to turn off the gas and water at the street then don't attempt to do it. If you have a wrench then someone who KNOWS how to turn it off will have the right tool. Tie a red ribbon to your wrench handle too.

10. Be aware of the types of natural disasters, severe weather or emergency situations that are the most likely to affect your area.
 
Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit and http://www.fema.gov/text-messages to get monthly FEMA updates and to find a shelter by your zip code. Phone numbers and addresses of local emergency shelter locations can be programmed into your cell phone. Please keep cash in small denominations in your vehicle for such emergencies. Find out how much it will cost to stay in a hotel for three days and add the cost of food, etc. so you will have what you need if you cannot go home for a few days. Having a change of work clothes in your vehicle will enable you to go to work even if you are out of your home.

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