Friday, February 10, 2006

Emergency Kits

I live in Oakland, California. We have lots of little earthquakes. We have so many earthquakes that nobody seems to notice them all that much. However, every once in awhile we get some pretty good ones and every once in a very long while we get killer quakes. It was 1906 when we had the last killer quake. We had a pretty bad one in 1989, but they’re saying on the scale of bad earthquakes that wasn’t much. And, we’re due for one. Like every 100 years. That’s this year.

Somebody from the Red Cross came by to talk to my company the other day. She said it’s important to have a disaster plan and an emergency kit put together. In fact, she said you should have lots of kits put together. Put them in the trunk of your car, have them at home and at work. And, maybe have a smaller one beside the front door in a backpack that has your really important numbers and documents in it; your social security numbers, your passports, your bank account numbers. She said you could email this stuff to yourself and then just let it sit as an email in a folder until the day you need it and have to get it from somebody else’s computer via webmail because your computer has been destroyed. It occurred to me to have your resume there too. I remember one of the Katrina victims saying she was having to remember all that info and was having a hard time reconstructing her resume since she couldn’t go back to her old job.

The Red Cross lady also said to mail important bank account info and papers to an out of the area contact person. That person could also be the person everybody would touch base with if and when the disaster happened. So, you’ve got 5 members in your family. You’re all separated when the quake hits. You call this out of the area person to tell them where you’re at. Then, you find out if anybody else in your family has called to check in.

Then, your family has an alternative place to meet. Your house is in flames so the agreed upon meeting place is across the street in the neighbor’s driveway. That way you’re not screaming your head off looking for everybody. If that place is not available you’ve always got a Plan B to fall back on; some place within walking distance. If that isn’t safe once you get there you leave a note somewhere.

She said there isn’t one particular thing to have in your kits and as time went by you’d think of other things to have. It is important to talk to people about them, to make the thinking about a disaster plan an easier thing to do. She said, if you could, plan on 5 to 7 days before you got help. So, I’m talking.

Here’s what we figured we’d put in a kit.

  • Cash – coins are good because they don’t get wet. Lower denomination bills so people don’t have to make change.

  • Water – figure on one gallon per person per day.

  • Radio and batteries to run the radio. One of those hand cranked jobs would even be better.

  • Flashlight and batteries. A friend gave me a flashlight that shakes and doesn’t need batteries.

  • Tarp – string – rope

  • Bucket with a plastic bag and two 2x4’s to use as a portable toilet

  • Duct tape

  • Tools

  • Non-perishable high calorie foods (not salty – salty makes you want to drink water)

  • Bleach

  • Something to while away the time as you wait – books, crossword puzzles, suduku puzzles

  • A good pair of sturdy shoes. It was also suggested to always keep a pair of shoes under your bed if you have to leap from bed at 2:00 am.

  • An extra set of clothes.

  • Medical prescriptions that you take.

  • An extra pair of glasses if you’ve got any.

  • Pen and paper

  • Pet supplies if you’ve got animals

  • Important papers and account numbers

The Red Cross lady said current thinking is to avoid use of candles and matches. She said a lot of fires get started that way and they’re recommending folks use flashlights.

She said you put 16 drops of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water, wait half an hour and if you can smell a faint whiff of bleach the water is okay to drink. She said if you can’t smell the bleach add in another 16 drops of bleach and wait another half an hour. If it’s still not okay to drink, don’t drink it.

She said every six months she will go through their kits to freshen the water and make sure the energy bars haven’t expired. She said many times she will use the stuff she keeps in the trunk of her car and replace it as needed.

Think of 2 ways to get out of every room of your house. Just think about it.

Anyway, we don’t have a kit yet, though I’m thinking about it. She said it was really important to begin a dialogue about this stuff. You think about it in a less panicked state of mind and just calmly bring the stuff together that you might need in an emergency. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but just in case, it’s there for you and your family.

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