We never know when or where emergencies or disasters are going to happen – which is why it is so important to take action now to make sure your family is prepared for the worst.
How do you prepare?
• Assemble an emergency supply kit with everything you need to survive on your own after an emergency for at least 72 hours. This means having food, water and other supplies sufficient for your family and pets.
Depending on the scope of the disaster, local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, but they cannot reach everyone immediately.
Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Choose food that your family will eat and avoid foods that make you thirsty, such as salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content. Stock food that does not require refrigeration because power may be out, and try to buy cans with pop tops for easy opening.
Store at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation. Keep at least a three-day supply of water. You can purchase bottled water or store your own in plastic soda bottles. Just be sure to clean the bottles with soap and water and rinse completely. If you store your own, write the date on the outside of the bottle and replace every six months.
Other basic supplies you need are a NOAA Alert Radio, flashlights with extra batteries, transistor radio with extra batteries, first aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation, a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, and special provisions you may need for infants and pets.
• Make a plan so that your family members know how to get to a safe place and contact one another because landlines and cell phones likely will be overwhelmed.
Identify a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for family members to notify that they are safe. It might be easier to make a long-distance call than a call across town. Program each of your family’s cell phones with the out-of-town contact person listed as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency).
Teach family members how to use text messaging. Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Subscribe to the Columbia County Emergency and Operations free email alert list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for notifications about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies and other announcements.
• Get involved by signing up for Columbia County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training on locating and turning off utilities, extinguishing small fires, hazardous materials awareness, radio operations, search and rescue operations, how to help relieve survivor stress and how to treat injuries immediately with life-saving techniques, such as opening an airway and stopping bleeding.
CERT training is funded through a grant and is free. If you are a Columbia County resident 18 or older and are interested in joining more than 400 other residents who have completed this course, please visit the emergency management page on the Columbia County Web site at www.columbiacountyga.gov, or call (706) 868-3303 for more information.
About a third of the population says the major reason they are prepared is because they have been through an emergency before. Don’t wait until disaster strikes your family to learn you need to be ready.
September 2012 is a good time to get ready.
(Pam Tucker is director of the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division.)