Thursday, September 3, 2015

September is National Preparedness Month

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September has been designated National Preparedness Month by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.  This year's theme is planning -- making a plan to deal with a disaster or emergency situation with your community, your family, and for pets, so that they are not injured or killed in a disaster.

Why pets? Too often, during emergencies, pets are the ones who suffer the most because they have to be left behind.   Emergency shelters often do not accept pets with people. As the owner of a wonderful Basset hound named Myrtle, I have to make sure I have extra food, medications, and supplies available to keep her alive as well.

Elements of a family emergency response plan include:
  1. A communications plan that includes the ability to receive emergency alerts from authorities, as well as how your family will communicate during such an emergency.  Remember, cellular networks may be jammed with too much traffic or be taken down by authorities in the even of a terrorist attack to prevent terrorists from communication or setting of explosives via remote.  You should have a method of letting other loved ones know you are safe as well.  Make sure each person has a laminated paper copy of the information in a vehicle or on their person if possible.
  2. A transportation plan for how your family will travel home or to a common rally point.  Every person should have alternate routes mapped out from their location of work or study during the day.  Don't depend on GPS or Google Maps.  They might not be accessible.
  3. Have a common rally point.  It could be as simple as a centrally located relative's house or gas station where everyone can meet an assess the situation.   It should be somewhere everyone in the family is familiar with and can be accessed from all directions of travel.  If you can, have some extra clothes and some toiletry items cached their in case you have to stay overnight.  Alternatively, a go bag, or get home bag, with the same items could be packed in each car.  This isn't a bag to go out in the wilderness and survive.  Think "I might have to stay a couple of nights in a motel or at Aunt Sally's" instead.  A simple toiletry kit, some extra prescription medications, and some clean socks and underwear could suffice.  Tailor it to your situation.
  4. Everyone should have some cash on hand to pay for gasoline or food if needed, because debit machines and ATMs may be down. 
  5. Make sure you have someone trustworthy who can get to your pets and take care of them if you are delayed in returning home, and ensure they are familiar with your pets' routines.
 All my family members drive to their destinations so I don't worry about busing. If you take public transportation to and from work and school, you need to consider how you will make it to a rally point if your normal method of travel is shut down or disrupted.

If you do use your own car, make sure it is good working order.   Keep the tires properly inflated and check them for uneven wear on the treads, as this is often and indication of a mechanical problem.  You know that book in the glove compartment you never open?  It has a maintenance schedule for your car.   Read it and have your car serviced by a reputable garage per this schedule.  Check your wiper blades for wear and keep your fluids checked and topped off.

Finally, make sure you don't let your gas tank drop below half a tank, or if you must, no more than a quarter tank.   Running the car constantly on empty can damage your fuel pump and fuel filter..  Further, being out of gas in an emergency just S-U-C-K-S.  If your engine quits in a line of traffic suddenly you could be struck by the car behind you, and at best, you are abandoning your car to go find gas or find your way on foot. Gas stations may run out of gas or be so packed it will take hours to get into a pump.  This happens regularly when hurricane evacuations occur in the South.

If you can commit to these few steps, and then practice your plan, you will be more prepared than 90 percent of your neighbors.

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