Before disaster strikes: prepare, plan, stay informed

"Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed."

That's the advice given by Ready.gov, a national public service advertising campaign to help people prepare for natural and man-made disasters.

You or someone you know may already have endured a temporary emergency such as an electrical outage, loss of cellular service or flooded roadway. Although inconvenient, imagine the consequences if the event lasted weeks or even months.

Here in the Verde Valley, some possible disasters with long-term consequences include drought, extreme heat, floods, monsoon rains, snow storms and wildfires.

According to Ready.gov, the three key steps to preparing for an emergency are as simple as A, B and C:

A. Build an emergency kit

• Water - One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

• Food - At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, such as ready-to-eat meats, fruits and vegetables; packaged crackers, snack bars, dried fruit and nuts; canned juice; non-perishable pasteurized milk and infant food.

• Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both

• Flashlight and extra batteries

• First aid kit

• Whistle to signal for help

• Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

• Manual can opener for food

• Local maps

• Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Once you have a basic emergency kit for temporary emergencies, pack an additional emergency kit for long-term disasters. Include the following items:

• Prescription medications and glasses

• Infant formula and diapers

• Pet food and extra water for your pet

• Cash or traveler's checks and change

• Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.

• Emergency reference material such as a first aid book.

• Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.

• Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.

• Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper. A two-liter plastic soft drink bottle filled with gathered water can be treated for drinking using two drops of regular unscented household liquid bleach. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.

• Fire extinguisher

• Matches in a waterproof container

• Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

• Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils

• Paper and pencil

• Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

B. Make an emergency plan

• Collect contact information and create a paper copy. Provide a copy for your family, friends, caregivers, neighbors, medical facilities, schools, workplace contacts and service providers.

• Share your emergency plans with trusted people. Tell them where your emergency supplies are stored, how to contact you if the power goes out and what medication and medical devices you need if there is an evacuation order.

• Plan alternative ways to charge your mobile devices before disaster strikes. Backup chargers for a cell phone could include a hand-crank USB cell phone emergency charger, a solar charger or a battery pack. Some weather radios have a built in hand crank charger.

C. Learn about the different types of emergencies that could occur and the appropriate responses (such as evacuation)

• Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood. Use the Family Emergency Plan to decide these locations before a disaster.

• If you have a car, keep a full tank of gas in it in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.

• Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency.

• Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.

• Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.

• Be alert for road hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas.

• If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Make arrangements with family, friends or your local government.

• Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.

• Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions.

• Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency.

For more information specific to your family situation-be it infants, seniors or persons with disabilities-visit www.ready.gov.

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