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Preparing for emergencies and disasters

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By Megan Ferguson

In my last article I reminded you of important things to do during severe weather. Today, I want to go a little further. Does your family have a plan for emergencies? Do you have all the supplies you would need if you had to leave your home in an emergency? Do you have a first aid kit?

The first thing that is important when planning ahead for emergencies is to know the area in which you live. What disasters could occur in your area? Second, does your community have a plan to warn residents of dangers? The Bedford Emergency Management Web site explains that Bedford city does have a siren system that is installed downtown. It also says that there are future plans to add more sirens to the city that will increase the distance the siren can be heard. Bedford does have other warning systems in place such as the television news and radio. Third, what will your community (schools, workplace, daycare, etc.) do in these situations to protect you and those you love? These are important questions you must find the answers to.

Make a plan for you and your family. This will make sure that each member knows what to do and how to meet up with you when emergencies happen. Include your children on this plan. It will give them the reassurance that you are prepared for whatever might happen and they will be taken care of. Virginia Cooperative Extension and other agencies recommend that you designate an out of town relative or friend to be your point of contact. This is because after a disaster some phone services (land lines and cell phones) could be out of service.

It is easier to make long distance calls because they are less likely to be experiencing the same type of technical problems. Each person in your family should call this person when an emergency occurs. Choose a meeting place for your family in case you cannot return to your home after a disaster. It is also a good idea to have a couple of meeting places, in different directions. If you are an individual with special needs, make sure you have someone you can depend on. Also, make sure your neighbors know of your condition and talk with them about how they can assist you in these situations.

Make sure your homeowners? insurance is up to date. If there is a chance your area could be flooded, talk to your insurance agent about additional coverage for floods. Make an inventory of your valuable possessions. Taking pictures of these items is even better. Take pictures of not just the items inside your home, but outside as well. Every vehicle should be included with this, as well as the landscaping of your home.

Landscaping is not insurable but it does increase the value of your home. Keep these documents and others such as birth certificates, other insurance policies, and social security information in a moveable, waterproof, lockable box, or in a safety deposit box.

Do not forget your pets when planning. Do not leave them behind. Make sure you put their medical information with the rest of your important documents and they are wearing collars with updated information. Microchips are also options to look into for these situations. If you do decide to microchip your animal, remember that you must also register your animal with the microchip company. For more questions about planning ahead for your animal contact your local veterinarian.

Each family needs an emergency supply kit to have at your home or be able to take with you. Each kit should contain enough supplies to last each person three days. Supplies should include: one gallon of water per person, food that will not go bad and does not have to be heated or cooked, manual can opener, paper cups, plates, and utensils, paper towels, batteries, battery powered radio, flashlight, sanitation supplies (toilet paper, soap, feminine hygiene supplies, and garbage bags and plastic ties for disposal),extra clothing and footwear, blanket or sleeping bag, extra keys, cash (or travelers checks) , identification, dust masks, duct tape, whistle, wrench or pliers, matches stored in a waterproof container, and local maps.

Special items that might need to be included are extra eye glasses, medications, baby formula, diapers, pet food and water, fire extinguisher, paper and pencils, and books and activities. Remember to bring your cell phone and charger.

Another important item that you must include with your emergency supply kit is a first aid kit. These can be purchased at many different stores or online. You can also prepare your own if you choose. If you want to prepare your own make sure to include some specific items: at least two pair of non-latex gloves, sterile dressings and bandages of varying sizes, adhesive cloth tape, antibiotic ointment, burn ointment, eye wash solution, thermometer, prescription medications or medical supplies that your family might need, over-the-counter medicines such as pain relievers, diarrhea medicine, or antacids. It is also important to have a first aid instruction booklet. The American Red Cross has an even more extensive list of items to include in your first aid kit. You can find this on their Web site www.redcross.org.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is available to help provide you with the information to prepare your family for emergencies. Remember, it is your responsibility to prepare yourself as much as possible. When putting kits like these together, you do not have to buy everything at one time. Build a steady collection of items you will need. This will make it much easier for you and your wallet. If you have any additional questions please call the Bedford Virginia Cooperative Extension office at 540-586-7675 or visit us on the Web at www.ext.vt.edu/offices/bedford. You can also find additional information at Virginia Department of Emergency Management at www.vaemergency.com.