Monday, September 15, 2014

Be Prepared for Any Disaster

Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare. September is National Preparedness Month
How many times have you been prompted to get prepared for an emergency?  Did you actually act on it and get a plan together?  Are you taking your chances and think it won’t happen?  Or do you have a plan and think you are prepared?  Go through this exercise and see if you are truly prepared:

-Where are your extra car keys?
-Where are your flashlights?  Batteries?
-Where are your important documents?

Now, how much time did it take you to run around your home to find these items?  This little exercise even forced me to evaluate my preparedness- or lack there of!  I recently attended a seminar from Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management on preparing for an emergency.  September is National Preparedness Month and there is no time like the present to act on this!  So I did.  I took their advice, created my plan and wrote this article, hopefully to inspire others to do the same!

  • Weather (floods-most prevalent in PA, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, Winter storms, heatwaves etc)
  • Human caused (fires, explosions, active shooter and chemical spills).
Emergency Plan
  • Evacuation Plan - have 2 places to go to and practice your plan!
  • Teach others how to use medical devices.  Plan for language barriers (including sign language)
  • Look at your county’s evaluation zone for your neighborhood
  • Contacts - have people listed outside the region to contact.
  • Pets are the #1 reason people return to their homes before local authorities have declared it safe to do so, risking lives in the effort to save beloved pets. Visit Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PASART) for more information on how to prepare your pets for a disaster.
  • Create a Go Kit or Bag
  • Twice a year check the Go Kit/Bag supplies and be sure your Emergency Plan is up to date.

Go Kit or Bag
Prepare this ahead of time in case you need to evacuate in a hurry.  It should be easy to carry and waterproof.  Keep this Kit/Bag at home in an easy-to-get-to place that everyone knows about.  But also consider keeping one at work or other important areas where you frequent, like your car.  Dollar stores have cheap supplies for stocking this kit.  Items include:
  • Copies of important documents such as insurance cards, photo IDs, birth certificates, deeds and proof of address on flash drive or in a waterproof container 
  • Extra set of car/house keys
  • Credit and ATM cards
  • Cash, especially in small bills
  • Bottled water and food that will not perish - energy/protein bars
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • Medication:  Be sure to refill medication before they expire.  Keep a list of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them and their doses.  Also keep copies of all prescriptions and your doctor/pharmacists' contact info.
  • Medical info/devices for each person:  blood type, glasses and hearing aids/batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Dress appropriately and wear sturdy, comfortable shoes, lightweight rain gear and a Mylar blanket
  • Contact and meeting place information for your household
  • Small regional map
  • Personal hygiene items such as soap, toothbrush/paste, feminine products, toilet paper and wipes
  • Child, pet or other special care items
  • Sign up for cell phone alerts (where applicable).  Stay informed through local TV, radio and social media etc.  The ReadyNotifyNorthampton system provides rapid text or email notifications and up-to-date information during a major crisis or emergency.  The above link also connects to other surrounding counties - Lehigh, Monroe, Carbon, Pike, Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne.
Need help getting your documents in order prior to a disaster?  Check out this great product, LifeinCase.

Shelter in Place
A great example of this is when a winter storm hits.  Yes, clearing out the bread aisle in the grocery store is a must but there are other things to prepare for: 
  • Pick a room with access to facilities ideally without windows/doors
  • Have enough supplies to last at least 3 days
  • Food that will not perish easily
  • One gallon of water per person/pet per day
  • Manual can opener and eating utensils
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Battery-operated radio with extra batteries
  • Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach and an eyedropper (disinfect water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials.  To disinfect water with bleach, add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water).
  • Personal hygiene items such as soap, toothbrush/paste, feminine products, toilet paper and wipes
  • Child, pet or other special care items
  • Old phone and jack because you won’t be able to charge your cell phones or cordless phones.
  • Cash because the ATM may not be working
If you have been instructed by officials to evaluation your home, do the following.  Realize that you may not have the time if it’s a fire:
  • Secure your home - unplug appliances, turn off utilities if instructed, lock doors/windows
  • Let family know where you are going
  • Dress appropriately by wearing comfortable shoes and layers of clothing
  • Grab your Go Bag/Kit
  • Do not use an elevator
  • Tune into your local radio station for evacuation routes
  • Go to the nearest shelter or safe place
So, it’s important to think about what you would do in an emergency.  Spend some time now to minimize the heartache and keep you and your family safe.  Check out the additional resources below for more tips and advice.

Additional Resources
Government/Nationals sites:

Back Up:


Robin Stankowski, Professional Organizer
RLN Organizing
Freedom from Clutter
Lehigh Valley, PA