Sunday, August 30, 2009

Assembling a Disaster Supplies Kit

In recent years our country has experienced some serious disasters–hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, mud-slides, wildfires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks. We know it can happen. How prepared are you if any of these catastrophes should it happen in your neighborhood?

Keep in mind that in a large disaster first responders and assistance organizations will be overwhelmed, meaning you likely will be responsible for your family’s safety and well-being for an extended period of time.

Preparedness isn’t difficult and needn’t be expensive, but it takes time and planning. Take the steps now to ensure your family’s safety in an emergency. The American Red Cross urges every household to assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with enough supplies to last three to five days. This kit will help provide your family with the necessities should you need to evacuate, or to be confined to your home.

Consider these items for your Disaster Supplies Kit:

WATER. Water systems are often damaged during disasters, allowing harmful microorganisms to contaminate water supplies. You must have clean water available to survive and it is a simple matter to have water on hand.

Empty bleach jugs make ideal water containers, but any clean, sturdy plastic containers will work. Keep in mind that an active person needs at least two quarts of water a day, more with intense physical activity. You should store at least a 3-day water supply. For example, a family of 4 should have a minimum of 6 gallons of water on hand.

A water shortage could exist beyond three days. According to the U.S. Department of Health, there are three alternatives you can take to provide clean water for your family: If available, obtain water from a safe source, such as bottled, sterile water; another option is to boil water for three to five minutes, which is possible only if you have fuel for boiling; or, you can treat water adding unscented, liquid chlorine household bleach.

Disinfecting with bleach may be more practical than boiling. Follow these simple steps furnished by the Department of Health, State of Washington, to help ensure water purity for your family:
– Add 8 drops of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. If water supply source is cloudy, double the amount of bleach.
– Let mixture stand for 30 minutes prior to use. Waiting 30 minutes is very important, because the chlorine needs this time to kill harmful organisms.
– Chlorine bleach treated water should have a very slight chlorine odor; if not, repeat the dosage and allow the water to stand for an additional 15 minutes. If the chlorine taste is too strong, expose it to air when possible, or add additional water.

FOOD. Store at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food. For food storage, use covered pails, or other containers that can be easily carried and stored. Consider foods that are ready-to-eat or that take very little cooking, such as canned prepared meals, powdered milk, and high energy foods (granola bars, peanut butter, etc.).

If after one year you haven't needed these goods (and let's hope you haven't!), replace these items with a fresh supply. Even canned goods have limited storage life and you want to be sure your emergency food is absolutely safe to eat. Warning: Never use cans that show signs of bulging or corrosion.

FIRST AID KIT. Assemble a first aid kit for your home and for each car. A plastic tool box or tackle box works well for a kit. Include adhesive and rolled bandages, antiseptic, cleansing agents or soap, and other standard first aid supplies such as aspirin, ant-iacid, and anti-diarrhea medication.

TOOLS AND SUPPLIES. If you are campers, you will have most things on hand for emergency tools and supplies. Keep your RV, camper, or tent in ready condition to be used as temporary housing. In your emergency supplies, include dishes, cookware, and stove, plus emergency stove fuel. Include flashlight and batteries, ABC type fire extinguishers, candles and matches.

It's a good idea to keep your car's fuel tank at least half full at all times. In the event of disaster, service stations may be unable to operate their gas pumps, so it's a good idea to keep a can of fuel stored in a safe place at your home.

CLOTHING AND BEDDING. Include at least one change of clothing and bedding per person. Include sturdy shoes, hats, gloves, and rain gear.

SPECIAL ITEMS. Remember special needs, such as for infants or disabled persons, medications, eye glasses, and entertainment items such as reading material, games, and cards. If you must evacuate your home, remember to take your family documents such as medical records, insurance policies, and wills.

Cash is another special item to have on hand. Without electricity, ATM's will not be available; your credit cards and checks won't work either. During an emergency, banks and stores might be closed. If stores are open and electricity is off, much of their equipment will be inoperable. It's a good idea to have on hand a supply of cash in small denominations so that you can purchase necessary goods.

LIST OF EMERGENCY SUPPLIES. Make a list of your supply categories and where they are stored so that nothing will be overlooked in the event you must suddenly evacuate your home: water, food, first aid kit, tools and supplies, clothing and bedding, and special items including cash.

Assembling a Disaster Supplies Kit will give you confidence and peace of mind should disaster strike. If you need to evacuate your home, or be confined to home, you will have the basic supplies you need. Act now to protect your family. For additional emergency management information, visit

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