The recent earthquakes in Haiti remind us that we must be prepared. This impoverished country had little to no preparedness in place. We must take steps to become more self reliant and capable of taking care of our own families in an emergency.
I have been involved professionally in emergency response since 1982. In that time I have responded to thousands of emergencies. Mostly of the daily 9-1-1 nature. Some were of a catastrophic nature, including large earthquakes, wild fires and floods. I have also been training the public in disaster preparedness since 1987. What I have come away with is a pattern of unpreparedness by civilians. This led me to create this list of the top 5 things one should do to prepare in the order of importance.
1. “Real” First Aid Kit- This is number one because injuries don’t and can’t wait. They must be addressed immediately. You must have a kit that can handle problems even when you do not have immediate access to 9-1-1. A “Real” first aid kit is a kit that is more than a owie or boo, boo kit. More than just band-aids and wipes. What you need is a kit with at least CPR barrier mask, trauma dressings, multiple 4×4 gauze dressings, gauze rolls, paramedic scissors, a real splint (not popsicle sticks), sterile water, burn dressing, etc. This is a kit that can manage serious and minor injuries. The ability to stabilize and sterilize can be lifesaving when outside sources become limited or unavailable.
2. Utility shutoff tool- The ability to control your gas and water meters is extremely important to minimize property damage and risk to life safety. To reduce the risk of fire and explosions immediately following an earthquake is critical. Always check the gas meter dials to determine a leak. As most leaks will be in the walls or attic of the home and you may not smell gas til it is to late. Look for a non-sparking metal tool that will turn off both your gas and water meters.
3. Fire Extinguisher- Since all fires start small, having an extinguisher handy is a great advantage for preserving life and property. Purchase an ABC dry chemical extinguisher. This type will extinguish all three classes of fire (ordinary combustibles, flammable liquids and electrical. Keep a fire extinguisher in the home and car. Periodically check the gauge for pressure.
4. Water storage- Even though you may not need water in the next hour. It will become critical to your families survival in the following hours and days. This not something you can get later. Store enough Water- a minimum of one gallon per person per day for 7-14 days for drinking and hygiene. Store tap water in approved barrels and treat with “Water Preserver” for five-year storage. Keep “Water Purification Tablets” on hand to treat any untreated or questionable water. One tablet will treat one quart of water. Never store water in old bleach bottles, milk type plastic containers (as they are made from breathable plastic) in the garage because any fumes from vehicles, paints, solvents, pesticides will contaminate your supply.
5. Car Survival Kit- Since we take our cars everywhere, place one in each family members car. You will always be prepared. Store 3-day Food Bar, Sterile Water Pouches, Medical, Warmth (thermal blanket) & Lightsticks and flashlight in your kit.