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Home Disaster Kits - One simple step in being prepared and surviving an emergency.
Disasters can strike at any time and anywhere. Although specific geographic areas are less prone to certain types of disaster, no place on earth is immune. Let's consider what we mean here, and think about which of these types of disaster might be possible where you live. The most likely disasters in the United States are:
You can see from this list that several of these might be possible where you live and therefore you need to consider carefully how you and your family would survive in such an event. Many of these disasters can confine you to your home for a significant period of time. Whilst the emergency services are second to none in our country, it's also a fact that the authorities and aid workers will be significantly stretched in a disaster scenario and therefore you might not receive help for many hours or even days. Could you survive such a time, without access to fresh water, food, warmth and other emergency items?
Basic necessities to help you survive
One way to mitigate the risk and increase your chances of survival is to put together a home disaster kit. As the name suggests, this is a pack of essential items already assembled together and which are immediately accessible in the event of an emergency. So what kind of items should you include?
It's best to think about the basic human needs. The most pressing need for humans is fresh water and it's normally impossible to survive more than a few days without it. The recommended amount is one gallon per person per day to cover both drinking and sanitation. Plan to have at least 3 days supply, that's three gallons for each and every member of your family. Food comes next. This should be non-perishable and include all the major vitamins. Canned food is good provided you include a means to open the cans. The final basic necessity is warmth, so include warm clothing and blankets. The human body is surprisingly resilient to cold but if the body temperature drops to dangerous levels the basic immune and support systems of the body will start to fail with lethal consequences. Taking care of basic medical needs during a disaster will save valuable time during a rescue attempt by an EMT or Paramedic.
Once you have water, food and warmth, you will need a means of communication. Even if you are not in immediate danger, the emergency services have no way of knowing that and a call to them will help them assess priorities and direct their efforts to those most in need. The best means of communication is a radio which should be hand cranked powered so that you don't have to rely on batteries which are likely to give up at the most inopportune time. Alternatively a cell phone with spare battery should be included.
Other items to consider will depend on the size of your family and the ages of its members. Young children and the elderly will be particularly vulnerable and the contents of your home disaster kit may be the only thing that saves their lives. Don't forget items like infant formula and diapers for babies and prescription medicines for those with specific conditions such as diabetes or other conditions that require specific medication. Check with your family doctor or nurse to find out what medication you can store, and how they should be stored for extended periods.
Pets will also need food and water, so don't forget to factor that into your calculations. One useful item is household bleach. If it is diluted with water then it can be used as an effective disinfectant.
A means of both extinguishing fire and making a fire are also important considerations, so a fire extinguisher and matches packed into a waterproof container will be needed. It is possible to dip the end of matches in candle wax to make them waterproof for long periods of time.
Finally consider including a well stocked first aid kit. It's likely that someone could have been injured during the event and rapid and effective first aid could save life or limb.
All of these items need to packed together and located in a position where they will be accessible in the event of a disaster. It might be prudent to have two identical kits located in two separate locations so that in the event of one being damaged or lost in the disaster, then the other would still be available.
Another scenario is one in which you might need to leave your home in a hurry. The decision to stay or go can be critical so you should consider both possibilities. In the event of a major forest fire, for example, swift and decisive action may save not only your life, but also the lives of your family. Keep your vehicle fuel tank topped off and consider having a spare can of fuel in an approved type of container available. Fresh water and food will be needed for everyone and this will have to be non-perishable and also light to carry. A rechargeable flashlight is a very useful item, particularly if it can be recharged by the vehicle.
Once you have a kit assembled then you need a family disaster plan that is known and understood by every family member. It's unlikely that every member of the family will be together at the time of the disaster. Always have an outside contact number, preferably someone who lives far enough away from you that they are unaffected by the disaster. This person can be the single point of contact for members of your family and they can account for each member as they ring or text in.
Make sure that you subscribe to alert services. These services are frequently free or low cost and they will alert you by email or text at the first sign of imminent danger and the increasing probability of a serious disaster looming. Like most situations, if you are forewarned then you are forearmed, and therefore you will be able to make better decisions and possibly take action before the disaster strikes.
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