Be better prepared for emergencies

With all the weather emergencies occurring around us, it is time to revisit the importance of Emergency Kits and Preparedness Plans. Recently our nation has been hit with floods, wildfires, tropical storms and even an East Coast earthquake. Are you and your family ready?

I know I’m not, and I’m going to remedy that immediately. In the past I have made half- hearted attempts at preparing an emergency kit, but recent events have stiffened my resolve to do better.

Emergency kits are vitally important; to help people exist for up to 3 days, until services can be restored or help arrives. It should include basic items such as batteries, a battery-operated radio, bottled water, canned and other non-perishable foods, candles or flashlights, a manual can opener, toilet tissue, hand sanitizer, extra clothes and blankets. If you have pets, don’t forget a 3 day supply of their food too. People with medical conditions should plan to have a supply of medications, medical and first aid supplies. Small children benefit from having a few toys, games, or other activities to pass the time. Kits should be portable and water tight in case of evacuation and should be updated twice yearly to replace expired items. A good rule of thumb is to update your kits when the time changes twice yearly.

Another factor in emergency preparedness is the formation of a plan. If the family is separated at school, work, or other activities, consider the following questions. Where are the primary and secondary locations where everyone will meet? How will communication be re-established (i.e. phone, text, word of mouth) for family members? For children, who are the secondary contact persons and safe havens during emergencies? There are also special considerations for senior citizens who live alone. My mother has five children, who would contact her and physically go to her home and check on her? Another consideration is to have a family contact outside of the area (another part of the country, if possible) where everyone can check in. This contact person can keep track of who has checked in to let the other family members know who is okay and who hasn’t been heard from yet.

Many of the victims of the recent earthquake in Virginia were especially concerned about not being able to contact their loved ones due to cell tower damage. Text messages were proven to be more successful getting through because they use less band width than cell phone calls. An extra phone charger in your kit is also a good idea. We often watch victims of natural disasters on television and feel distress for them, but we tend to think that those things happen to others, not me. I’m sure many of those people felt the same way until it happened to them. Don’t be caught unprepared. Get an emergency kit ready; discuss your preparedness plan with every family member. Here’s hoping we never have to use those kits, but we have them if we need them!

Suzanne Williams is the FACS agent at Dougherty County Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (229) 436-7216 or suzanwms@uga.edu.