News and Tribune

March 3, 2013

Preparation the key to survival in disaster situations

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

HENRYVILLE — A tornado like the one that destroyed homes and businesses in Henryville, Marysville and other parts of Southern Indiana probably won’t happen here again in our lifetime. The odds say so. 

But if it’s not one thing, it could be another. If not a tornado, then what about a flood? Maybe an earthquake? Or perhaps something a bit more personal, like a fire or a lightning strike? 

One thing that unites most of us is a desire to be in control of the situation in which we find ourselves. But things happen. Life is filled with chaos, a roller coaster journey of good times and bad. We don’t have control over when things like what happened on March 2, 2012, take place. All we can do is hope for the best. But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for when disaster strikes. 

I’m not talking about survivalism or the extreme measures undertaken by “preppers.” There are common-sense things you can do and items everyone should have in their homes, just in case. 

 

COMMIT TO A PLAN

If something can go wrong, it probably will. We all just hope it happens to someone else. But should an emergency arise, it’s good to know what you’ll do when it comes. 

Gather up the members of your household and discuss what will happen in case of a fire, tornado or other emergency. In grade school, they make the kids know where the nearest exits are in case of a fire, and teach them to get to an interior wall during a tornado. The same drills at home might seem a little excessive, but having a basic plan in place is just common sense. 

In today’s world, help will likely be on the way sooner rather than ever. But it’s only common sense to plan on making it on your own for a short period of time.

Take a look around you — what do you need every day? What kind of things do you rely on? What are the luxuries? If there’s something you can’t live without, it’s probably a good idea to have extra.

 

ASSESS YOUR SITUATION

Different people have different needs, but there are a few things everyone should keep in mind. Living day-to-day might seem like the frugal thing to do, but it’s not really practical when unforeseen circumstances arise. A small area in the basement with an extra week’s worth of nonperishable food and bottled water will give you something to subsist upon while help is on its way. 

But every family is different. Consider yours. Do you have small children? If you have an infant, an extra stockpile of formula, diapers, bottles, powder and over-the-counter medication might be good to have. 

Do any of your family members have disabilities that might impede their ability to get to safety in an emergency situation? What will they need to get around? How will you alert a hearing- or vision-impaired family member to an emergency? 

What about pets? Food might be an obvious need, but what if you need to transport your animals? Even if they never leave the house, having pet carriers available for your furry friends might come in handy someday. 

Some emergencies call for getting to a safe place inside, while others call for a hasty retreat. And once they’re out, you’ll want to have access to things like their veterinary records. Chip animals and make sure your animals have collars with up-to-date tags. They’ll help reunite you with your pets if you get separated. 

 

HAVE THE TOOLS

A basic disaster kit will have a few things that will come in handy regardless of the situation. 

Keep three gallons of water per person in the household somewhere you won’t use it unless an emergency arises. That’s good for both drinking and sanitation. Keep extra if you have animals to care for. If the food you are storing for an emergency is canned, be sure to keep a can opener nearby. 

One of the most important things you’ll want is the ability to communicate with the outside world. A hand-cranked weather radio will never run out of batteries and will give you access to information immediately, while a prepaid cell phone kept with your kit will allow you to contact friends and family. 

Tending to the injured and sick may also become a necessity, and a good first-aid kit will come in handy in those situations. Buy a plastic kit that’s air tight when it’s shut. 

An electrical outage is all too likely in the case of an emergency, and a flashlight and extra batteries will be relied upon heavily. Also, consider buying a portable generator.

Hopefully you’ll never need the things in your disaster kit, but you’ll be glad you prepared if you do. For more information on how to formulate a disaster plan and kit based on your specific needs, visit ready.gov