Best time to begin planning for an emergency? Today

The earthquakes in Haiti, Chili and most recently in our own area serve as serious reminders of the importance of preparing for disasters. There are many steps that can be taken to lessen the impacts of a serious earthquake.So what are the steps to being 'ready'? Essentially, there are three primary actions we must take to prepare for emergencies. First, we need to have emergency supplies. Second, we need to have a plan for our actions should an emergency occur (individual, family, neighborhood and workplace). Third, we need to be aware and ready for the specific emergencies that are likely to occur in our area. As we begin our emergency preparedness efforts, consider the goal. We (individuals, families, neighborhoods and workplace) should plan on being self-sufficient for 3-5 days. Being self sufficient doesn't stop with having food and water. There are many items and services we may need to survive a post-disaster period of time. For example, what about our power supply, communications, medications, weather related problems and security? A recent lecturer for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) organization offered a bit of wisdom on the importance of emergency preparedness when she said, 'what we do to prepare for an emergency will have a lot to do with how we live afterward". As with most worthy goals, at first they seem very difficult to reach. However, if we give ourselves five months to meet our goal, being reasonably prepared for an emergency is within our reach. With a timeline of five months, we can have an objective each week that is specific, attainable and realistic. Over the last year the Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Downey CERT team have handed out hundreds of very informative brochures that offer a number of suggested activities and supplies for emergency preparedness. Additionally, there are a host of very good websites that provide a wealth of information as well. The American Red Cross and the FEMA website are two excellent examples. The downside to the brochures is they can overwhelm readers with the information and recommended activities. Many may wonder where to start their efforts. We all react to challenges differently. Whenever I am faced with a difficult task (and I have some time to work on it) I think of the old saying, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time'…With the old saying in mind, let's start our preparedness efforts with some simple steps this week. The objectives for week No.1: Share your emergency preparedness goals with your family members, neighbors and co-workers. Take a few minutes to explain why being prepared is important. Obtain the following: •one gallon of water for each member of the family one family sized jar of peanut butter one can of juice per family member one can of meat per family member one hand-operated can opener one gallon of water for each pet (dog or cat) one permanent marking pen (for dating the supplies we purchase) one disaster supply container (i.e. plastic tub, box, specific household space) Take the following actions: learn more about First-Aid (i.e. read information, enroll in a Red Cross class) date all emergency supply items listed above using marking pen set aside three days of pet food Note: the objectives listed above should be something we can do in a week. In many homes and workplaces, some supplies will already be in place, hence the use of the word 'obtain' rather than purchase. Many families and workplaces already have people with knowledge of first aid practices. In the places where the first aid resources exist, perhaps those with the experience can simply take a few minutes to share it. "Make every day a training day" is an old fire service saying that has great merit. Mark Sauter is deputy city manager of emergency preparedness for the city of Downey.

********** Published: March 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 49