Top Three Ways to Prepare Yourself for a Disaster
by Glenda Lehman Ervin (Item numbers refer to the Lehman’s Catalog items.)
First in a three-part series
Tornado in the forecast? Snowstorm on its way? Or perhaps those nasty rumors of another terrorist attack got you worried? With a little planning and foresight you can weather (pun intended) any storm.
The first thing you need is a kit of emergency essentials. And let’s face it; most of us are embarrassingly unprepared for even a power outage. There are several books that can help you along the way. Two of the most popular are Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook (Item No. 723252, $22.95) and The Encyclopedia of Country Living (Item No. 365951, $29.95).
There are three steps to being ready for a disaster, man-made OR mother-nature made:
1) Prepare a kit
2) Make a plan
3) Stay informed
Number One: Prepare a Kit
You must have supplies on hand prior to the disaster. Food and water, both listed below, are essential, but there are other items that should be in your kit. The kit should be light and easy to carry so that you can take it with you.
· Water is essential for life (see below for details on amounts). Lehman’s recommends Katadyn emergency tablets, Item No.8013692, $16.95, to clean the water and the water storage bags, Item No. 6684112; $8.95, to store the water.
· Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Canned food is best.
· Hand-cranked radio and flashlight (LED Wind-up Flashlight, Item No. 2071000, $19.95; Coleman Hand-cranked Radio, Item No. 35105, $49.95 )
· First Aid kit
· Whistle to signal for help
· Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
· Moist towelettes or hand sanitizer
· Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
· Can opener for food (Can Opener, Item No. H640471, $9.95)
· Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
· Unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula or diapers, and important family documents
· Garbage bags for personal sanitation
· Copies of essential paperwork, e.g. birth certificate and home insurance
Because water is essential for life, you should keep extra on hand at all times. Please make sure you have at least one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation, for three days. So if you are a five-person household, you need 15 gallons of water on hand. Remember, children, nursing mothers or those living in a warm climate may need more.
A small water filter, similar to those campers and hikers take with them, can be a lifesaver. Some will actually turn coffee back into water. Water tablets are a wonderful, space-saving alternative to carrying a water filter.
In addition to water, store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Canned food makes the most sense, but don’t forget the can-opener! You can also choose dry cereal, peanut butter, dried fruit, powdered milk, crackers, vitamins, even comfort food. Chocolate comes to mind right away. Don’t bother packing anything that needs to be prepared, cooked or mixed together. It’s just not worth the hassle.
Step Two: Prepare a Plan
So you have your kit(s) packed and ready to go. Step Two is to prepare a plan. What if your children are at school, your spouse is away on a business trip and you are at the grocery store.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations.
If phones are down in your area, it makes sense to have an out-of-town contact that each family member can reach. Be sure each family member memorizes this number and knows how important it is to check in, even if the lines are tied up for hours. Remember the situation in New Orleans . . . families spent many anguished days searching for their children and loved ones because they had no contact person from out of the area.
Step Three: Emergency Information
Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified. Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or emergency workers may go door-to-door.
Find out if your workplace, school or daycare has an emergency plan. If not, perhaps you can volunteer to work on a plan. Talk to neighbors and others in the community. What is their plan? Perhaps you can work together.
The first major decision the head of the household will have to make is, “Do we stay or do we go?” You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is immediate danger.
In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should monitor T.V. or radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available. This is where the hand-cranked radio is essential. If you are out of power, which happens in almost every disaster, and you can’t find any batteries at your home (don’t even think about trying to buy them at a store) you have no way of knowing what is happening if you don’t have access to a radio.
If you’re specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately. Whether you are at home, work or elsewhere, there may be situations when it’s simply best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside. The first thing to do is bring your family and pets inside and calmly lock the doors. Locate your emergency supply kit and take it with you. Go to an interior room with few windows, if possible.
If you are worried about air contamination, turn off fans, air conditioning and forced-air heating systems. Close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers. Seal all windows, doors and air vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
If you decide to go, you might not be able to come back. Keep in mind, you might also be ordered to go by law. Plan how you will assemble your family and anticipate where you will go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency. By creating an evacuation plan, you can keep your family safe and calm. Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
If you have a car, keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case you need to evacuate. Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area. If you don’t have access to a car at all times, you must decide how you will leave if you don’t have transportation.
Don’t forget your emergency kit(s)! Take your pets with you, but understand they might not be allowed in shelters. If possible, have an alternative plan for your pets, e.g. leave food and water and lock them in the house. During a real disaster, you don’t have time or energy to worry about things like, “what if the cat makes a mess,” and “Should I grab the presents I bought for Aunt Millie’s birthday next month.” Just take your emergency kit and your family and move quickly and calmly.
In the next issue: The lighter side of disaster preparedness. Day Three and No Power: how to I feed and entertain my family! ■
Lehman’s is the world’s largest purveyor of historical technology and truly a family business. They have a hardware store in Kidron, Ohio (one hour south of Cleveland) and have an extensive catalog that you can access online at www.lehmans.com. or call 888/438-5346. The second generation of Lehman family members are now running the business. Patriarch Jay Lehman founded the business in 1955; son Galen Lehman is the president and granddaughter, Glenda Lehman Ervin is the Marketing Director (and author of this series of articles). Please see the Lehman’s ad on p. 17 and use these tips and the future installments to help you prepare for whatever disasters occur in your area