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September is National Preparedness Month

By Jason M. Webb | | September 10, 2009

September is recognized as National Preparedness Month and government officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency emphasize personal preparation in the event of a catastrophic disaster.

This year, officials are suggesting everyone follow these simple steps: get a kit, make a plan, be informed and get involved in community efforts.

According to the Web site Ready.org, the site of FEMA’s Ready Campaign, research found that Americans are not as prepared as they think. Fewer than half of individuals had an emergency plan for their home.

Additionally, individuals’ low level of familiarity with critical local information such as the community alerts and warning systems, shelter locations and community evacuation routes indicate that these essential elements are missing or incomplete from household planning efforts.

With hurricane season reaching its peak, the constant threat of terrorism, and as the pandemic H1N1 flu virus continues to spread, people need to have preparation plans.

“People make bad decisions because they didn’t plan,” said Jack Colby, fire chief, Fire and Emergency Services, Fire Protection Branch, Public Safety Division,  Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga.  “It goes back to the old adage of nobody plans to fail; they just fail to plan.”

Colby said that part of that planning is being prepared for self-sustainment in the event of a catastrophic event such as a tornado, flood or any other event where people have to remain at home for long periods of time. Part of that preparation is having enough food and water on hand for at least three days for each person in the household. 

That means having a supply of nonperishable foods and at least one gallon of drinking water per person for each day.  So a family of five would have to have a minimum of five gallons of drinking water, equaling 15 gallons for three days.

“If the grocery store can’t open for two or three days, people need to have enough food on hand to sustain themselves for at least three days,” Colby said.  “You have to be able to keep the bare essentials to stay somewhat comfortable until help arrives.”

According to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, being prepared with plans and tools for survival can be as simple as a trip to the store or a 30-minute conversation with family members.

Their research indicates that nearly 70 percent of Georgia residents did not feel the need to be prepared for the recommended 72 hours following a disaster, while even more are not as prepared as they should be. Most families do not have reconnection plans; 71 percent have not located local shelters; and 36 percent do not have extra supplies of nonperishable foods and water.

“Noah didn’t start building the ark when it rained.  He was done when it started raining,” Colby added. “It’s the same theory people should apply.  Be prepared.”

For more information about National Preparedness Month recommendations, go to www.ready.gov or www.ready.ga.gov Web sites.

Basic Emergency Supply Kit

Recommended items to include:
* Water: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
* Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
* Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
* Flashlight and extra batteries and a whistle to signal for help
* First aid kit
* Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
* Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
* Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
* Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
* Local maps and cell phone with chargers

Additional items to consider:
* Prescription medications and glasses
* Infant formula and diapers
* Pet food and extra water for your pet
* Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
* Cash or traveler’s checks and change
* Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov
* Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person and consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate
* Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.
* Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant or in an emergency, it can be used to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water
* Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners
* Fire extinguisher
* Matches in a waterproof container
* Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
* Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
* Paper, pencil, books, games, puzzles or other activities for children