Preparing for the worst: A disaster plan can save lives

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The weather outside appears to be getting more frightful every year. Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, unexpected snow, sleet and hail events all seem to be the new normal.  And that means it’s more important than ever to have a disaster plan in place.

One crucial part of that plan is having enough food and water to last your family for at least three days; if possible, for two weeks. While that may seem like a long time, remember the devastation and lengthy cleanup that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Clean water should be your top priority. While we can go without food for several days, we can’t survive long at all without water. Our bodies are composed of 60 percent water, our brains are 70 percent water, and children’s bodies are made up of more water than adults’ bodies. Water is also needed to prepare food and stay clean. FEMA, PEMA and the American Red Cross recommend having at least a three-day supply of one gallon of water per person per day. This supply should be refreshed every six months, and it should be stored in a cool, dark place in food-grade containers such as clean soda or juice bottles (don’t use milk bottles; hidden residue can contaminate the water, and never use containers that held toxic substances).

Food should be another priority. Again, at least a three-day supply for each person in the house is recommended. Stick to non-perishable items, such as canned or dried foods that need no refrigeration. Suggested items include canned meats, dried soups and bouillon cubes, hard candy, vitamins, and high-energy foods such as nuts, peanut butter and trail mix.

You should also have a first-aid kit, including a supply of medications, such as prescription drugs, painkillers, antacids, laxatives and anti-diarrheals.

Tools are another important part of your emergency kit. Flashlights, extra batteries, a manual can opener, duct tape, pliers, matches, a signal flare and a fire extinguisher should be included.

Planning for an emergency isn’t difficult and doesn’t take long. It could save your life or the life of someone you love. Take the time to make sure you’re prepared — if disaster strikes, you’ll be glad you did.

For more information on creating an emergency kit, click on this link to download a PDF of PEMA’s emergency preparedness guide. You can also review more information from the American Red Cross and FEMA.