Sunday, December 18, 2011

Prepare For Disasters - Make Your Family Safer

The Red Cross is a quasi-goverment organization. They work so closely with the govenment of the US that they are almost part of it. They usually arrive on the scene of a disaster before most government agencies do. They specialize in preparedness training and putting up and running shelters. They are a huge organization and their web site reflects all this. It is so big and complex that even people who work for the Red Cross don't know about the whole site.

The Red Cross site(s) are something that can easily overwhelm one if you let it. Don't let it overwhelm you. It is just fine to look around on it a little, but put your time into getting your basic preparedness supplies first and working out your personal and family disaster plan. After you do that you can cruise the Red Cross site and spend the rest of your life getting educated about disaster preparedness.

The Red Cross depends on volunteers and likes more of them any time. If you feel moved to become a Red Cross volunteer they do have fringe benefits. You may get a discount on classes with them. CPR, AED and First Aid are something every family should have at least one family member certified to be able to do. The Red Cross class is kind of pricey, but what is a life worth?

If you can't afford a Red Cross class even at a discount there are other options. FEMA recently paid for CPR, AED and First Aid for free all over the country. I got my certificate free because I am a volunteer leader for my local Neighborhood Emergency Watch. That is not to be confused with the crime fighters. The one I volunteer for is for getting prepared for emergencies like fires, floods, earthquakes, etc. Funds for this are limited so don't wait. My training was given through the American Heart Association, paid by the local Emergency Management Center, with funding that came from FEMA. You don't have to be a Neighborhood Emergency Watch Leader to get free training, but you get cuts in line for it and they are already low on the free classes in my area.

The Red Cross used to have a list that was specifically for go bags. A search on their site brings up pages of not necessarily directly relevant information and it could take a while to find out for sure if they still have the go bag list. I don't have a lot of time to write this today, so I am going to give you some suggestions on how to pare down your list of items to take with you to a shelter or if you can not take much with you to evacuate.

I would start with copies of important papers and medical necessities. I like hand sanitizer because studies I have read say that most diseases are spread by hand contact. Hand sanitizer does not require water, which may be hard to come by, especially clean water. I also like something to clean with like a washcloth. They have super absorbent towels that are very small and weigh very little. They are usually expensive.

Shelters are very boring and you can spend a lot of time just sitting with nothing to do. Something to entertain yourself and your family, especially if you have children, may prevent another disaster by keeping you occupied enough to avoid strangling each other. The entertainment would be better if it does not involve electricity, or batteries, neither of which may be available.

If anyone in the family is high-strung you might want to bring something like Bach Rescue Remedy. It is an herbal calming solution that does not use drugs and is not habit forming. You might want to check the ingredients to see that nobody is allergic to anything in it. I use it for my pets when I take them to the vet and it works very well for that purpose.  It is made for humans, though.

No pillows are given in shelters, if you need one, bring it. You may not be happy with the blankets either, but you have to decide how much you can carry and what space there will be for what you bring. If you are simply evacuating, the space in your vehicle or on your back is the limiting factor.

At least a change of underwear and socks is a good idea, and an entire change of clothes per person, if you can manage it. I find it helpful to pick my backpack to be used as a go bag and actually pack it to help decide what to leave out. You have probably already noticed that suggested items could fill up a huge vehicle and leave no room in it for people if you were to take them all. It will definitely be necessary to prioritize what to bring.

I lightly pencil in priority numbers on a printed list and start with the top ones and work my way down. Checking to see what will fit in your go bag periodically is very useful. Checking to see what you can actually comfortably carry and still walk is also useful.

Here are a couple of links to Red Cross pages of a supply list and a print out of emergency contact cards for all family members to have with them at all times. Emergencies are rarely conveniently scheduled for when you have everything you need handy.

Red Cross PDF supplies suggestions
Red Cross PDF Family Emergency contact cards to print out for each family member

No supplies are much use unless you are able to use them. I suggest you and your family practice. I will blog about that too.

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