Introduction to Preparedness
While City Staff, police and fire personnel, school employees and others work to develop their disaster-response skills, each of us individually and with our neighbors must work to be prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster. It is important to keep in mind that during these types of events, emergency response crews may be overwhelmed and/or unable to respond. In these circumstances you may initially need to rely on support from your family and/or neighbors, which is why taking steps to prepare prior to an event is critical.
Personal Preparedness Essentials - 2 Weeks Minimum
Preparedness begins at home. It starts by having an emergency plan in place, as well as basic emergency supplies needed to sustain yourself, your family and your pets for a minimum period of two weeks (PDF). These include, but are not limited to water, food, medicine and basic first aid supplies. A good rule of thumb to use when estimating the amount of water needed is to start by having one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and hygiene use. Food items should be easily prepared with minimal or no reliance on electricity or even those not needing any cooking. Medicine may be difficult to get to depending on the severity of damage or obstruction of driveways, roadways and bridges.
Store personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a hard hat, shoes, gloves under your bed. Additionally, keep a flashlight, first aid kit, battery operated radio, whistle, pen and paper under your bed. Its best to store these items in a container or sack that can be fastened to the bed frame so the items don't shake out of reach. Similar supplies should be kept in each of your vehicles, along with an emergency blanket and a cache of food and water. Maintain an emergency stash of cash and keep vehicles fueled to at least 50% full at all times.
Prepare your home by strapping your hot water heater, securing tall furniture, such as hutches, wardrobes and bookshelves, to studs in the wall. Know how to shut off water, electricity and gas services to your home. Maintain smoke alarms and place charged fire extinguishers in close proximity to potential sources of fire. Maintain secondary sources of light and heat for your home.
The Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island developed this brief, very informative video covering the preparedness essentials discussed above. If you are looking for a great place to get started with home preparedness, this is it! You can access the video by clicking here: Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island - Emergency Preparedness.
If you do a simple internet search for emergency kits or disaster kits you will find hundreds of sources. Some will sell a prefabricated kit, while others will customize it to your input needs. Most kits contain items you may already have around the house; you just need to get those items assembled and set aside for emergencies or disasters. If you are not able to assemble your own kit, or want to give the gift of preparedness for someone, consider purchasing such a kit.
It is essential that any kit be examined so the user is familiar with the contents well before the pressure of an emergency or disaster situation arises. The time to know what is in your kit, how much and where it is located is not when someone is in dire need. Searching the internet will also lead you to sites such as FEMA and American Red Cross where they also have lists of what to include in a good kit.