Pack your bags for the next disaster

Pack your bags for the next disaster

May 25th, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa

Tornadoes, floods, thunderstorms with lightning, snow and ice storms, drought, wildfires, earthquakes - these are natural disasters that could affect anyone living in Catoosa County.

Are you prepared? Are local governments and institutions prepared?

In addition to the potential for widespread natural disasters, there is also the chance of a fire or explosion that would affect one or a few homes. An example would be the natural gas explosion that damaged as many as 50 homes in a Calhoun subdivision last May.

What would you do if something similar happened in your community?

Major transportation links - U.S. highways 27 and 41, Interstate 75 and CSX rail line pass through the county - also bring the risk of dangerous spills or toxic leaks in the event of crashes or accidental discharge. Additional possibilities for disaster are provided by three TVA nuclear power plants (Sequoyah, Watts Bar and Browns Ferry) being located within 100 miles of the county.

What safeguards have officials and agencies put in place to protect the public should some catastrophe occur?

Flooding in September 2009 and this year's January snow and last month's tornado snow highlighted how planning has prepared local governments for quick and effective response to the unknown.

But have individuals and families likewise prepared themselves for response and recovery in a time of disaster?

In the 204 page guide "Are You Ready?" the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states individuals should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days in the event of a disaster because relief organizations and responders might not be able to reach you immediately or might focus efforts elsewhere.

That means being able to meet your own shelter, food, water, sanitation and first aid needs for about three days.

Authorities say they hope no one ever needs to face cataclysmic disaster, but preparations can result in smoother recovery or even your very survival.

Emergency Preparedness

FEMA and the American Red Cross suggest:

• Create an emergency plan

• Meet with household members to discuss the dangers of fire, severe weather, earthquakes and other emergencies. Explain how to respond to each.

• Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.

• Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.

• Draw a floor plan of your home.

• Mark two escape routes from each room.

• Show family members how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches when necessary.

• Post emergency telephone numbers near telephones.

• Teach children how and when to call 911, police and fire.

• Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information.

• Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative for family members to call if separated during a disaster (it is often easier to call out-of-state than within the affected area).

• Teach children your out-of-state contact's phone numbers.

• Pick two emergency meeting places.

1) A place near your home in case of a fire.

2) A place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home after a disaster.

• Take a basic first aid and CPR class.

• Keep family records in a water and fire-proof container.

Prepare a Disaster Supplies Kit

Assemble supplies you might need in an evacuation. Store them in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or duffle bag. Include:

• A supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store water in sealed, unbreakable containers. Identify the storage date and replace every six months.

• A supply of non-perishable packaged or canned food and a non-electric can opener.

• A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes.

• Blankets or sleeping bags.

• A first-aid kit and prescription medications.

• An extra pair of eyeglasses.

• A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.

• Credit cards and cash.

• An extra set of car keys.

• A list of family physicians.

• A list of important family information; the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers.

• Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.

KEEP EXTRA COPIES

For recovery after a disaster and for insurance claims it is suggested that copies of mortgages, school, financial and legal records, family photographs, serial numbers, birth certificates and medical records be kept in several locations.

It is suggested that physical copies be made on flash drives, CDs or DVDs and stored in a safe deposit box or with a trusted relative or friend.

Software is available to help keep up-to-date digital inventories of personal possessions. Some software allows using a computer or smartphone's camera to read bar codes directly into an inventory list. Otherwise, experts suggest making room-by-room inventories using either still or video cameras.