Disaster kits essential

How do you prepare for a natural disaster?

The American Red Cross responds to more than 70,000 disasters each year and knows better than most there is always something unexpected to deal with.

“You have to have a plan with and for your family,” said Beth Bauer, CEO of the Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. “It is because of my work with the Red Cross that I have worked with my family to establish a plan.”

There are steps you can take to prepare your home and family for the unexpected disaster, but what are the “must haves” for disaster preparedness?

The Red Cross outlines what is needed to become “Red Cross Ready.”

A three-day supply of non-perishable food needs to be on hand. Be sure the food can be prepared with little or no water or heating, keeping in mind that there may not be electricity for days. When packing the canned items into your emergency bag, include a manual can opener. Peel-top can lids are also good choices.

All items, including food, should be kept in an easy-to-carry kit that can be stored at home and also taken with you.

Other items that should be included in the kit are: water, flashlights, radios, first aid kit, medication, medical supplies, cellphone and charger, cash, emergency contact information, map, personal documents and blankets.

Bauer also said the search and rescue efforts in Joplin highlighted the importance and helpfulness of air horns and whistles.

“When communication goes down or power is out, these items can still be used by those who may be trapped under debris,” she said. “Air horns and whistles can save lives. Texting was also able to help pinpoint some victims’ locations.”

The Red Cross website, www.redcross.org, will help walk families through how to become as prepared as possible for natural disasters.

In the steps for becoming Red Cross Ready, the program will take you through what is needed for your family.

For seven days, a family of four should have: 28 gallons of water, 56 meals (two for each day, keeping in mind these will be smaller meals), two flashlights, one radio, one first aid kit, a set of medication for each person daily, two-pack of batteries per emergency kit (be sure they are the sizes needed for flashlights and radio) one multi-purpose tool, one set of personal documents with information regarding each person, cash, four sets of emergency contact information, four emergency blankets and one map of local area.

Bauer said it is important to not just have these items at home, but have them gathered and in an emergency bag that can be grabbed when leaving the home or seeking shelter in the home.

“People do not want to leave their homes, but unless you have a basement or strong interior wall, it is not always the safest to remain in your home,” she said, noting the recent destruction of mobile homes during the Wednesday tornado in Sedalia.

While the recent disasters have brought preparedness to the forefront of many people’s minds, it always should be, Bauer said.

“Overall we, as society, have become very lackadaisical in thinking that these disasters will not happen to us,’ Bauer said. “They can and do. We need to be proactive and take things seriously. We cannot be storm watchers from our front porch. We must be prepared and protect ourselves and families.”

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