The world seems to be changing very rapidly and what we once thought were adequate safety precautions may no longer be sufficient. When we hear of tragic or disastrous events, our sense of well being may be threatened. A person with a developmental disability or their family member may face enhanced fears due to limitations the person may have in preparedness that increase their vulnerability.
Adequate preparation can increase the feeling of competence and security. What kind of disaster should we prepare for? Consider your risks and those of your household first.
- Individual risks may include health conditions that could result in a medical crisis such as an allergy to a bee sting, potential for asthma attacks, or any of a multitude of other conditions.
- Environmental risks vary by geographic location and may include earthquakes, tornadoes or floods.
- Unpredictable disasters may come in the form of a sudden fire or a breach in national security, for example. Even if you are not directly affected, you may experience such things as power outages and short supplies of food and water.
Most of us have a basic first aid kit available. Do you know where yours is? Experts tell us to put everything you might need to cope with a disaster in one central place. When you think about it, this is a very good idea. Whether you need a CPR mouth barrier or food and water for three days, a central location means that no time is lost gathering or locating important items.
The American Red Cross and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommend that every home have a disaster supply kit that has two components. The first part is the basic home first aid kit that includes bandages, antiseptics, non-prescription drugs such as aspirin, and other supplies to deal with minor medical emergencies. To obtain a list of supplies, see Appendix A of the American Red Cross web site or use a first aid manual for guidance. Gather up the needed items from medicine cabinets, kitchen drawers and wherever else supplies are stored and put them together in one location. This will enable you to grab it and go if you have to leave and will save you time in a crisis.
The second part of the kit includes tools and emergency supplies that might be needed in case you have to evacuate your home quickly, or in case you are confined to your home due to a natural, biological, chemical or nuclear disaster.
The American Red Cross recommends that this part of the kit include:
- A radio that can be powered by batteries to listen for emergency announcements
- Batteries that are stored outside of the radio and flashlights (for longer life.)
- Enough food and water for each household member for three days. Special needs must be addressed such as provisions for correct food texture, for example.
- A complete change of clothing for each person, including footwear
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Sanitary supplies such as toilet paper, soap, disinfectant, chlorine bleach, personal hygiene items such as menstrual supplies or incontinent briefs, and garbage bags
- Plastic sheeting and tape
- Personal identification and cash, traveler’s checks or credit card
- Emergency contact information and family information including medication and health information stored in a waterproof container
The most important part of assembling a disaster kit for 2003 is the personalization of that kit. Include prescription medication, (Meds to be reviewed every six months for accuracy) extra eyeglasses, and seasonal clothing. You may wish to include a few games, cards or books.
During some types of emergencies, you may be directed to stay at home and “shelter in place”. If it is not safe to go outdoors, or if the water supply becomes contaminated, the kit supplies will keep you and your family safe.
Once you have assembled your kit, determine the best place to keep it. Storing it near your food supplies reminds you to rotate food periodically by using something from the kit (like a can of soup) and replacing it. Plan to replace the food and water every six months and replace batteries once a year. Put things that you might need, in the event of an evacuation, into a duffel bag or similar carrier so that it is easy to grab when you are in a hurry.
Preparing for emergencies provides some confidence that you are ready even if something unpredictable happens.