The following was submitted by Colleen Adler, Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, Lakewood Fire District 2.
For many people the idea of disaster preparedness is overwhelming. How on earth can I prepare for an event that has unknown consequences? Well, the answer is – break it down into easy steps. This article outlines some simple projects that you can complete easily to get you on the road to preparedness.
- Arrange an out of area contact person. Why? Because in the event of a disaster, local phone systems may be overwhelmed, but often you can place a long-distance call. So right now, chose a friend or family member that lives at least 100 miles away. Give this person’s contact information to everyone in your family. Instruct each family member to call that person to report their status and location. The contact person can then relay that information back to family members as they check in. Imagine your relief to know where your loved ones are and how they are doing. It’s certainly worth the few minutes it takes to set this up. The State of Washington has prepared wallet size cards for you to note this critical contact information. Stop by Lakewood Fire District 2 and pick up several for your family and friends.
- Start your disaster kit. It’s as simple as printing out this document and “going shopping” in your own home. Decide where you will store your kit (near an exit is the best idea). Now grab a pencil and list and walk around the house picking up and marking off items on the list. Take them to your storage spot and drop them off. Don’t worry about a container right now, just organize them so they are not a hazard. Be sure to save the list for your next step!
- Look at the list you used to ‘shop at home’ for emergency supplies. Those items you have not checked off still need to be located, either purchased or by rethinking what you have. For example – sturdy shoes. If you have a family it’s likely that your children have outgrown shoes before they were worn out. Those shoes might be perfect for younger family members! Consider storing them with your disaster supplies. Also, if you are a camper – don’t forget to consider your camping goods, perhaps storing them near your disaster goods. Now, decide what you can spend on disaster supplies. If you can spend $1.00 – look over the list and prioritize, then buy the highest priority item that costs $1.00. Keep the list and plan your purchases. You may have to save up some of your dollars, but at least now you have a program! If you are able to make the disaster investment all at once, take your list and go to a store that carries all or most of the items on your list. You’ll be more likely to get it done if you don’t have to run from store to store. Whatever you purchase, don’t forget to put the supplies with your other disaster supplies.
- OK, now you have several disaster supplies in one key place in your home, but they are kind of messy and how will you move them if you have to evacuate? You need containers! Look around the house. Last year’s school backpack is perfect for storing supplies and it’s portable! Each family member should have a backpack, with appropriate weight for their age and abilities. Gather up those unused backpacks, or go to a second hand store in search of back packs. Pack your items and be sure to add personalized items for each family member. A picture of the family is often comforting for a child. Place your backpacks in your designated disaster supply area. Remember, you don’t have to put all your supplies in backpacks – just those you may need to evacuate with.
- Don’t forget special medications that family members may need. Try to get at least one month extra of prescription medications and put them in the backpack – each month when you refill the prescription rotate out the one in the kit and replace it with the new one – so you always have fresh medication.
- Think about a large container to store everything in – backpacks too! Keep your eyes open for sales on sturdy plastic containers with wheels (so you can move them outside easily). Wheeled garbage cans are perfect for this. Put everything in your container, put it in your disaster supply location and you are done with your kit!