National Preparedness Month – Tips to Prepare Yourself and Your Family
September is National Preparedness Month. This is an annual, month long educational program to educate citizens about emergency preparedness. Cattaraugus County Office of Emergency Services would like to take this opportunity to sum up the top 3 valuable tips to prepare yourself and your family in case disaster strikes.
The first step in preparedness is to create an emergency plan. This doesn't have to be an in-depth document, but it should include a few basics that will be critical in case of emergency, such as:
- Emergency Communications - Designate a person outside of your household to be the check-in point during an emergency. This would be a person that everyone in the family can call, text, Facebook message (or whatever works for you) to check-in and say they are OK. Ideally, you would have one local person and one at least an hour away. Then, if communications are affected locally you can contact that out of town person who may still be unaffected and able to receive your message.
- Meeting Spot - During an emergency, you may be separated from your family members and, when communications systems are overwhelmed, you may not be able to contact them either. Designating a meeting point outside of your home, and one not typically affected by flooding or large crowds, can be a good way to meet-up with separated family members when it's safe. Ideas of good spots include a local library, school, or church.
- Emergency Contacts - Make sure your workplace, doctors offices, daycare centers, and schools have updated emergency contact information. Two points of emergency contact are always better than one.
- Insurance - Gather copies of all insurance policies (health, homeowners, flood, pet, auto, etc.) with agency contacts and account numbers. Keep these documents in a safe, water-resistant container (Ziploc bag or small safe) that you can easily access and take with you should you have to evacuate during an emergency.
- Emergency Alerts - How will you and your family members receive emergency alerts? Sign up for NY-Alert to get emergency weather and safety alerts directly to each phone or email account. NY-Alert is customizable so you can choose the area for the alerts, types of alerts, and even times of the day you would like to receive the alerts. It's free, it's easy, and could save a life during an emergency.
- Visit www.ready.gov/make-a-plan for more tips and even printable templates for your emergency plan.
The next step is to create an emergency kit. You don't have to become a doomsday prepper to have an effective emergency kit, but there are a few basic items you should consider adding to your kit. A large plastic tote, or a few, in a easily accessible area of the home is all you need to get started. Items to include:
- Prescription Medication - You should keep at least 7 days of all prescription medications on hand, whenever possible. Keep the medications aside for your kit but be sure to switch it out with newer supplies every other month or so, so that it doesn't become expired. You may choose to keep some non-prescription medicine in your kit as well such as remedies for upset stomach, diarrhea, cold, flu, pain, cough, fever, etc.
- Basic Supplies - Handy items would include a hand crank can opener, first aid kit, whistle to signal for help, solar cell phone charger, battery-powered or hand crank radio or weather radio, flashlight, and a supply of extra batteries (rotated out with new twice each year).
- Personal Care Items - Add items to your kit such as toilet paper, moist towelettes, garbage bags, shower kit, toothbrush and paste kit, extra gallons of water for washing, feminine care products, eye glasses and/ or spare contacts and solution, and any other personal or medical care items needed by each member of the family.
- Food and Water - You should be prepared to care for each member of your family, and your pets/ livestock, for at least the first 72 hours after the onset of an emergency. This means having at least 1 gallon of drinking water per person and animal (more as necessary) per day. This means you should have a minimum of 3 gallons of drinking water on hand for each member of your family. When choosing food for storage, keep in mind how the food might need to be prepared. Food that requires more water to be made ready to eat will require more water be kept in the kit. Ready-to-eat foods are best, but be sure to choose things that are not high in sodium (you'll want to drink more) and food that is higher in protein for energy.
- Visit www.ready.gov/kit for more information about what you could include in your emergency kit.
The final tip is actually a list of common-sense ideas to keep in mind during emergencies and disasters of all kinds:
- Turn around, don't drown! Never drive through flood waters. You do not know for certain what may lie beneath the surface of the water.
- When the roads are bad, stay home! During serious winter storms, often times travel bans or advisories are issued. Be sure to sign up for emergency alerts to inform you of those travel restrictions, and then follow them. Do not travel on unsafe roads. Watch the weather forecast and be prepared ahead of time.
- Never touch or cross downed power lines! Treat all service lines as though they are electrified until proved otherwise by a power company professional. Stay back at least 50 ft. and if power lines come down on your vehicle, call for help and stay in the vehicle until rescue professionals tell you to do otherwise.
- Stay informed and follow directions! Choose at least one service to provide you with emergency alerts, NY-Alert www.nyalert.gov is an excellent resource, so that you can stay informed. When professionals provide information about sheltering in place (staying where you are), no unnecessary travel, evacuation, water use restrictions, etc. listen to them. Follow the directions you are given to keep yourself and your family safe. So many injuries, illnesses, and deaths during an emergency are caused by those not following emergency officials' directions. The ability to receive information and follow direction is critical.
Cattaraugus County Office of Emergency Services provides preparedness information year-round on our website www.cattco.org/emergency-services and our Facebook and Twitter accounts @CattCoPrepared. Visit us for more info any time!