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Extension Service shares tips for emergency preparedness, recovery

Were you and your family prepared for the recent emergency? Did you have the supplies on hand you needed to weather through? Many went without food and water until the emergency supplies were brought in. There were so many generous volunteers, kind-hearted neighbors and organizations, but next time the help may not be available. There are steps you can take now to prepare for the next emergency.

Being prepared for disasters can seem intimidating or expensive. But it doesn't have to be. You can prepare your emergency kit a little at a time.

•One — Begin by assessing what you already have on hand. Over the course of a few months, you can fill your kit with the other items you need. Begin with the container. You will want a container that is sturdy and durable, portable, and it should seal well (to keep out insects and dust/dirt). A good alternative is a heavy-duty back pack. Also, you may want to consider having two kits; keep the second one in the trunk of your car in case an emergency happens while you are away from your home, or if you have to leave your home.

In the kit, you should include: at least one gallon of water per person for at least three days (for example, a four-person family should have at least 12 gallons of water), a three-day supply of food per person for at least three days, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, flashlights, first aid kit, whistle (for signaling for help), dust masks and plastic sheeting and duct tape (for emergencies that require you to stay in the home because of contaminated air), moist towelettes and garbage bags (for personal sanitation), wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, can opener and local maps. Do not forget your pets' needs. Include a supply of pet food and water.

You may also want to add prescription medications or eyeglasses, baby supplies, copies of insurance policies or other important financial papers, cash or traveler's checks, sleeping bags or blankets, change of clothing, household bleach and medicine dropper, fire extinguisher, matches and candles in a waterproof container, feminine supplies and personal hygiene items, paper cups and plates and plastic utensils, paper and pencil and books or games for children.

•Two — The second step in being prepared is to make a plan for what you will do in an emergency. Be prepared to assess the situation. Use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and your family.

Develop a communication plan. Start by planning how your family will contact each other in case you are separated when the emergency strikes. A good strategy is to have everyone plan to contact the same person, such as an out-of-state relative. In some emergencies, local telephone service might be unavailable, but long distance will still be working so an out-of-town person may be easier to contact than someone nearby. Also, have a rallying place to meet. This should be a location you know your family can get to if you need to come together.

You will want to know emergency plans for places where you and your family spend a lot of time such as school or your work place. Parents will want to find out how best to contact their children's school in an emergency situation. Pet owners should find out where their pets can be sheltered.

•Recovery — Now, as the county recovers from this emergency, there are some important safety precautions to remember.

If there are power lines down, do not approach them. Wait for professionals to remove fallen branches or other debris from all power lines.

Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color or texture. Throw away perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for two hours or more. Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees F or below can be refrozen or cooked. Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged. Remember: If in doubt, throw it out!

As power returns, listen to radios or television for updates. Check voicemail or answering machines regularly. Check in with family and friends. When safe, check on neighbors and the elderly.

For more information, please visit www.ready.gov or www.cdc.gov; or call Mary Talmadge, Jackie Young and Sharon Lawson at the Purdue University Cooperative Crawford County Extension Service Office at 338-2352; or Kent Barrow, director of the Crawford County Emergency Management Agency, at 338-4340.

Sharon Lawson, Extension Educator, Crawford County
September 24, 2008

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