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Emergencies: ‘Be Prepared, Not Scared’

September 12th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Caresa Alexander
Photos by Michael Doxey

LOGAN—You may remember the earthquake drill at school; crouch under a desk or table and cover your head. Fortunately, most of us have not experienced an earthquake or a major disaster. But when it happens, will you be prepared?
Getting Cache Valley residents ready for such emergencies is the goal of a series of emergency preparedness workshops conducted by Utah State University Extension Agent Adrie Roberts.
“We want to reduce your fear, your anxiety, about the impact and the losses that accompany disasters,” Roberts said.
Being prepared for the unknown reduces anxiety, she said, which is why the first step is to create a family emergency plan.
Roberts said families need to think about how to contact each other in case of an emergency, and where they will meet when disaster strikes. Another part of being prepared is to put together a 72-hour, or even a 120-hour emergency kit of resources you’ll need over the first couple of days after an earthquake, tornado or other disaster.
Roberts said the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) recommends a 120-hour kit because local authorities may not be able to provide help immediately because they will be focused on the bigger picture.
“It is very important that each individual little family is prepared to take care of themselves, to evacuate themselves and to do whatever needs to be done because we can’t depend on the government,” Robert said.
Blair Larsen, a USU geology instructor who teaches a natural disaster class, and agrees that having a plan in place is essential. She said people are a bigger help to the community if they are prepared.
“After a disaster, the community-response people are going to need to devote their attention to people who are really, really bad off,” Larsen said. “If you are not that bad off but you don’t know exactly how to take care of yourself, they may not be able to get to you for a while. You may need to be able to take care of yourself or your family on your own.”
In her class, Larsen’s students prepare personal disaster plans, including floor plans of their residences with escape routes and safe spots marked.
“If a disaster happens, where can I be that will be a safe place?” Larsen asked. “Or if this exit is blocked through some damage from the disaster, is there another way to get out of the house? It forces you to consider the living space that you are in.”
Roberts says families should plan for emergencies together, to make sure they know escape routes in the event of an emergency. If the doorway to a child’s room becomes blocked, make sure they can push out the screen of their bedroom window and get out of the room. If children are in school, Roberts says, they will have to stay at school.
“Each school has a plan, and we will listen to a radio and they will let us know exactly where we can pick up our children,” Roberts said. “The kids need to understand that their teacher and school will take care of them before we get to them because I’m sure it will be a stress issue for them.”
While an earthquake is Cache Valley’s top disaster concern, Larsen says, there are other natural disasters to be aware of: some parts of the valley are at risk for floods, wildfires and landslides. Last summer’s canal collapse in Logan is an example.
These kinds of events may result in an evacuation order. Residents should check with neighbors and see who may need a ride, and leave notes to let others know when you left and where you are going. Should an evacuation become necessary, it is important to know the escape routes out of your neighborhood. Some routes, like canyons, may be closed if roads and bridges are damaged. A battery-powered radio is recommended as part of the preparedness kit; 1610 AM is the emergency radio station.
EMT John Roberts points out that residents may also need to shut off utilities before evacuation. All household members should how to shut off the gas, water and electricity, he said. When shutting off electricity, he said, shut off individual circuits first and then turn off the main circuit breaker to reduce a surge of demand on the system when the electricity comes back on.
When dust, debris or contaminants fill the air, residents may be asked to stay in their homes. John Roberts suggests a downstairs or basement room with the fewest windows, which can be sealed with tape if outside air contamination is a danger. Below ground is also the place to be in case of nuclear attach, but not if there is a natural gas leak; gas flows into the basement, so it’s best to evacuate the building.
Some Cache Valley neighborhoods have systems in place to notify others if residents are OK or need help. Adrie Roberts urges everyone to know if their neighborhood has a plan.
“In an ideal world, every neighborhood is organized into blocks and there is a block captain,” she said. “Every home in Cache Valley has a red flag or a green flag or red piece of paper or a green piece of paper. If we are OK we put our green strip of fabric on the door. If we are not, we put up the red one.”

Emergency Kits

The experts say every household should put together a 72- or 120-hour emergency kit. Besides standard items like tools, knives, matches, can openers, bandages, extra clothing, flashlights and personal hygiene items, the kits also should include prescription medications, batteries, sturdy footwear, water bottles, a thermometer and tweezers, as well as a list of important phone numbers. Remember that during emergencies, cell phones may be out of service.
Essential financial records also should be part of emergency kits. After emergencies such as floods that struck St. George a few years ago, or major catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, many residents without their important papers were handicapped during recovery. Keep insurance policies, titles, tax documentation and other important documents together in a safe place, Adrie Roberts suggests—in a bank safe deposit box, in a home fireproof box, or with a relative or friend in another town.
Roberts also said the financial records should include photocopies of everything in your wallet, front and back, as well as passwords and financial information so family members can get access to accounts if necessary.
Financial records also should include a personal property inventory of household possessions and motor vehicles, as well as their worth to ease insurance claims. Roberts says she has photos of her family’s belongings stored on a digital CD.
It’s also a good idea to include cash in your emergency kit, including coins and small bills for use when computer and electrical systems are down after a disaster.
Household emergency stores should include one gallon of water per person per day for the 72- or 120-hour period.
“After a disaster it is possible you may not have access to clean water,” Larsen said. “You may have water coming out of the tap but it may be contaminated, so they recommend you don’t use it. Water is a critical thing. We cans survive for days without food but we don’t do so good without water.”
Cases of canned food and dry goods in plastic containers also should be part of the emergency stores. Rice is among the most versatile and least expensive food items for long-term storage: white rice can last eight to 10 years in its package and up to 30 years if canned, but brown rice contains a fatty acid that makes it go rancid in about six months.
“It is important to have a disaster plan because you do your best thinking before the actual disaster happens,” Larsen says. “When a disaster happens, that is not the time to start planning. That is the time to enact the plan.”
“Don’t be scared,” she says. “Be prepared.”
For more information on emergency preparedness see the USU Extension website.


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  1. One Response to “Emergencies: ‘Be Prepared, Not Scared’”

  2. By Dinda Sheeva Cell Phone | Mobile Phone | Smartphone Blogger on Sep 12, 2010

    A good and very interesting blog post,it is very informative and useful for all of us in preparing for emergencies such as earthquakes natural disasters that might befall all of us anytime. I think the education to prepare for emergencies is very important to reduce and even avoid the natural disasters of earthquake victims

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