Emergency Preparedness Pt1

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

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Have you heard about the recent flooding, fires and tornadoes that left thousands of families homeless throughout the US?  Remember the record snow last winter, record heat this summer and those who lost electricity?  2008 was the second most active tornado year ever, the second deadliest and the fifth most active hurricane season ever.  So the question is:  In a natural or man-made catastrophic disaster, what would you do?  If the cell phones and land lines no longer worked, how would you communicate with others?  Where would you go?  What would you take?  These are some of the questions that were posed recently at the National Administration for Children & Families Human Services and Disasters Leadership Forum and Training. Specialists spoke about the importance of preparation, collaboration, knowing who is responsible for the disaster case management in our area, evacuation and reunification plans, reviewing the MY READY BOOK, and more.

There is so much to think about, where do you start?  According to FEMA, knowledge and understanding are the first steps.  First, consider the different types of emergencies that could potentially impact you and your family.  Lighting strikes, fire, flooding, hurricanes, ice storms – we have a variety of weather and situations that have occurred in North Carolina and could occur again at a moment’s notice. 

Next, locate your local shelters.  It’s important to know where you would go and how you would get there now, as opposed to during the middle of a catastrophic situation.  You will need to research evacuation routes and find out who is in charge of our emergency preparedness in Warren County (see www.warrencountync.com).  When an emergency occurs, evacuation is not uncommon.  Do you have a map with evacuation roads marked?  Consider traveling these roads on a calm, sunny day so you will know the way in the event of a flood, fire or hurricane.  Depending on the situation, your local government may want you to shut off water, gas and electricity if you need to evacuate.  One terrific source on how to do this is at:  http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/

Talk to school leaders about their disaster plans so you will know what to do if your children are in school and ask if your child care center has a family reunification plan.  Learning what to do for specific hazards and what may be expected of you from our local government is important.  When the Town of Apex had a chemical blast, all residents were told to evacuate immediately in the middle of the night.  Gathering information now takes some work but it’s worth it in the long haul.  

Your next goal is to develop your Family Emergency Plan, considering elderly family members, those with disabilities and a plan for your animals.  Did you know that after an emergency, it is often easier to make a long distance call as local phone lines could be down?  After 9/11, New York City was flooded with incoming calls.  Residents found it easier to call out of state than down the street.  Your plan should include each family member calling a designated out of town friend or relative to check in.  If you have special needs it may be necessary to register with the office of emergency services or local fire department.  Your medication, transportation, and medical devices need to be considered.  For your animals, keep veterinarian records to prove vaccinations are current; ensure your pets have IDs and gather your pet supplies.  Consider contacting the animal shelter to get additional information on their specific procedures.  Remember, pets are not typically permitted in emergency shelters as they may affect the safety or health of others.

Your check list should also include taking vital records.  You should have copies of them in two locations.  In fact, inventory your home possessions now, take pictures and consider giving a copy to a family member in another area.  If you were to lose your home in a fire, both would be invaluable to you and the insurance company.  Many citizens put away a small amount of cash to have on hand in the event of an emergency.  If the electricity is out, cash will be the easiest form of payment.

There is a great deal to cover in this topic area.  Let’s continue the conversation over the next few months through a series of Emergency Preparedness columns.  For now, some of your homework can be found at the following websites.  Stay safe!         http://readync.org/        www.warrencountync.com     http://www.ncgov.com/                          http://myreadybook.com/         http://www.disasterassistance.gov       ###

This article was reduced due to space limitations.  First publishing occurred in August 2010.

Rachel Harris Monteverdi is a Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, a division of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University.  The Family & Consumer Sciences department incorporates prenatal to end-of-life programs.  Priorities for North Carolina citizens include:  Family & Parenting Education; Balancing Work & Family Workshops; Academic Success; Elder Care; Active Aging; Planning for the Future; Home Ownership & Housing Issues; Conservation & Environmental Issues; Leadership; Emergency Management and more.  Call 252-257-3640, email Rachel_Monteverdi@ncsu.edu or visit http://warren.ces.ncsu.edu for more information.