Preparing for an emergency in three steps
Emergencies and disasters can strike quickly and without warning. Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy are stark reminders for older adults how quickly a disaster can disrupt your normal living. What would you do if your basic services such as water, gas and electricity were cut off? What if you couldn’t get your necessary medications?
In a large scale disaster, much like the 1964 Earthquake, first responders may not get to you in the first few days. That is why it is important for you to be your own first responder. By following these three easy steps you can help alleviate the impacts a disaster can have on you and your family.
Step one: Be informed
Start by learning what types of hazards or risks your community faces. Do you live in an area prone to flooding? Are you in an earthquake or tsunami zone? Knowing the hazards and risks will help you prepare.
Questions to you might ask yourself are:
• How will I be notified of a possible emergency?
• What if I need help evacuating?
• Where do I go?
• Do I know where the shut-off valves for my household utilities are? Do I know how to turn them off?
• What radio station do I dial-in to get information during a disaster?
Step two: Make a kit
Since a disaster can happen at a moment’s notice, being prepared and having a kit is important. You should have enough supplies to survive safely for at least seven days.
Remember, a disaster kit does not have to be expensive. Look around your house and see what supplies you already have. If you need to purchase anything, make a list and work it into your monthly budget. Maybe one month you buy a flashlight and the next month you buy a radio.
Nothing says you have to buy everything all at once. Your basic kit should include:
• Non-perishable food for seven days (dried fruit, peanut butter and crackers, canned food that does not require cooking, plus a can opener)
• Water—one gallon per person, per day. So one person needs 7 gallons.
• Flashlight with extra batteries
• Battery or hand crank radio
• First Aid Kit
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toilet paper, plastic garbage bags)
• Copies of personal documents such as medication lists, birth certificates, insurance policy and medical information.
• Cash and coins (ATMs may not be available. Your cash should be in small bills)
Step three: Make a plan
So now that you know the hazards and risk to your community and you’ve made a disaster kit, what next? Now it’s time to create a personal emergency plan.
Only you know what your special needs may be and how they may need to be meet in a disaster or emergency. Assess yourself and your household. What are your personal limitations or abilities? If you will need assistance in a disaster make sure you have a personal network set up, someone that will come and check on you. In your personal emergency plan, consider including:
• Communication plan. Choose an out-of-state contact person. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long distance call rather than a local call from a disaster area.
Carry your important phone numbers in your wallet. Often times we don’t know phone numbers unless they are preprogrammed on our phones. What happens if your phone battery dies?
• Evacuation and meeting place plan. Decide on a meeting place outside of your neighborhood that you would meet family members if you could not get home or if you had to evacuate.
Learn two ways in and out of our neighborhood and workplace.
By following these three simple steps, you are on the right path to disaster preparedness. Remember to maintain your kit and practice your plan. Every time you change your clock for Daylight Savings Time, check and replenish any expired items such as food, medication and batteries and update any changes to your communication plan.
For more information on Senior Preparedness contact the Municipality of Anchorage, Office of Emergency Management at 907-343-1401.
Michelle Torres is the Municipality of Anchorage Emergency Programs Manager. She will be a guest speaker at the Older Persons Action Group annual meeting Nov. 14 in Anchorage.