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Protecting yourself and family in an emergency


The recent natural disasters in Texas and Florida highlight the need for all of us to prepare for emergencies or terrorist attacks that could potentially displace us from our homes and in some cases our communities. The massive evacuation from parts of Florida also illustrates how expediently we might have to leave our communities and the dilemmas posed by choosing what to bring. There are different types of contingencies to plan for depending on where you live (e.g. urban or rural), what type of support system you have in your area to offer possible temporary shelter and what potential health issues may arise from exposure to heat or cold ambient temperatures.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends simple steps to prepare for and to respond to potential emergencies, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks. To prepare, individuals should do three important things: prepare an emergency supply kit, formulate a family emergency plan, and be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur in their areas and their appropriate responses.

All Americans should have some basic supplies on hand to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs. They should also consider having at least two emergency supply kits: one full kit at home and smaller portable kits in their workplace, vehicle, or other places they spend time. If there are warnings of impending serious weather events, fill your car with gas, fill plastic bags with water and freeze, get cash and fill prescriptions in advance.

The information box on this and the following page provides lists of some basic needs to consider for your emergency kits. Consider using backpacks as storage containers to hold them (excluding water and canned food). Each backpack should not exceed 25 pounds so that all members of the family, including older children, can take turns carrying them.

Other considerations:

Take basic first aid and CPR classes offered in your community.

If you live in a wilderness area not close to towns, take wilderness survival courses.

There are commercial emergency packages available, but these can be more expensive than creating your own.

FEMA recommendations for basic emergency supply kit

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 crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
Flashlight and extra batteries stored in waterproof containers
First aid kit (see separate info box for contents)
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and to filter water
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Tool kit that includes wrench or pliers to turn off utilities. Also Include knives of different sizes. Consider a small hatchet in the car for cutting brush to start a fire, and a small shovel.
Matches in a waterproof container
Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
Local map

Basic first aid kit

Pain medications: ibuprofen, non-aspirin tablets, aspirin and, if it is currently prescribed for a family member, codeine-based
Anti-diarrhea medication
Antibiotic ointment packs
Anti-itch cream or lotion for insect bites
Alcohol pads
Plastic and fabric bandages of various sizes and shapes
Butterfly wound closures
Sterile bulk dressing pads
Gauze rolls for bandages
Vinyl gloves
Tweezers and small scissors
Sun block of at least 15 SPC
Toothpaste, floss, extra toothbrushes

Additional Items to consider for kit

Prescription medications, glasses, batteries for hearing aids
Infant formula and diapers
Dehydrated foods—go to a sports/camping store for best selection
Dry pet food, extra water and collapsible bowl for your pet
Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, passports and other IDs and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. Empty your home safe.
Cash and change. Bring enough to last for at least week, because ATMs do not work if there is no power. Travelers’ checks are usually not accepted.
Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. 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. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper—nine parts water to one part bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Do not use bleaches that are scented, color-safe, or have added cleaners. 16 drops of chloride to a gallon of water will disinfect potentially contaminated water enough to drink.
Lightweight tent or tarp with grommets and nylon rope to create shelter
Fire extinguisher
Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
Paper and pencil books, games, puzzles or other activities for children


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