Posted by: wrcseniorservices | August 25, 2011

When Disaster Strikes…

Earthquakes and hurricanes – kind of an odd week on the East Coast. We are lucky the earthquake really caused no damage in Western Pennsylvania, and the hurricane isn’t expected to have much impact here either. The same cannot be said for Virginia and the coastline in Hurricane Irene’s crosshairs. It got me thinking. Am I prepared if a natural disaster would hit here? My answer, as most of yours probably is, would be no!

Sure I have an emergency roadside kit, but when’s the last time I checked its contents? About two months ago when a cousin needed his vehicle jumped after a family camping excursion. I pulled out the flashlight in my kit to help us see. The batteries were dead. The cables still worked though! Did I change those batteries? Nope. Tossed it back in the bag thinking, “I’ll take care of that later.” That’s the thing. No one ever expects disaster to strike.  If it does, I will sure wish I had that flashlight, among many other things.

So I started doing a little research about disaster preparadness. There are LOTS of great websites out there. If you don’t have the time to peruse (which let’s face it, none of us do), here are the highlights to help you prepare for a disaster.

Get Informed – After a disaster, help will be on the way from relief workers and government officials, but how long will it take to reach you? You should be prepared to survive on your own for a minimum of three days. You need to think about how you will provide your own shelter, food, water, first-aid and sanitation during that time.

You also need to think about what kind of disasters you’re preparing for. The most likely natural disasters to occur in Pennsylvania are floods, winter storms, tropical storms, tornadoes, wind storms and earthquakes. When planning, keep these types of emergencies in mind.

Get Prepared – If disaster would strike, do you know what to do and where to go? What if your family is separated? You need to have an emergency plan to guide your family in a crisis.  Keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, so it’s easy to remember. What you should include in your emergency plan:

1. Designate family meeting places – pick one near your home and one outside your area in case you have to evacuate or can’t get near your home at all.

2. Decide how you’ll communicate  – pick a relative or family friend outside the area that your family can contact to get back in touch. Everyone should have the name, phone number and address of that person.

3. Plan how to evacuate your home – talk about escape routes from each room. Know how to shut off your utilities.

4. Plan how to evacuate your area –  map out several escape routes from the area in case roads are flooded or closed. Always keep a half tank of gas in your vehicle.

5. Put your important records in a fireproof, waterproof safe so they will be protected in a disaster. Take them with you.

6. Create an emergency kit. There are lots of resources and checklists to help you on the internet. You can even buy ready-made kits, but here’s the basics you will need:
Bottled water (one gallon per person per day)
3 day supply of non-perishable food
Batteries
Battery powered radio
Flashlight
Family and emergency contact info
First aid kit
Extra clothing
Blankets
Rain gear
Cash (ATMs may not be working!)
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Multipurpose tool
Matches
Whistle
Map of the area
Extra set of house and car keys
One week minimum supply of prescription medications

We all hope disaster never strikes; but take a few minutes now, while news of the earthquake and hurricane are fresh in everyone’s minds, to come up with an emergency plan to guide your family in the case of a crisis. Have any tips or questions? Please leave a comment! Stay safe.

– Dawn Wise
dwise@wrc.org
Manager of Marketing and Communications
WRC Senior Services

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