January 02, 2012

Preparedness Resolutions

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As we celebrate the New Year, many people are likely making their New Year's resolutions.  Often times such resolutions include weight loss, health, savings and career goals.  This time of year also provides a good time to sit down as a family and take stock of how prepared we are to recover from emergency situations.  Having a plan and resources in place to help get through a crisis from natural disaster, winter storms, house fires, accidents and other situations can help reduce hardship and ensure quick recovery. 

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an entity of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), home fires are more prevalent in winter than any other season.  Increased uses of cooking and heating fires contribute to this increase.  Fire risk rises, as more people utilize alternative heating sources to accommodate for interruptions in electrical service from winter storms and high energy costs.  The agency reports that winter residential building fires result in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries and $1,708,000,000 in property loss each year.

FEMA provides a number of recommendations of how to plan for risks and reduce potential hazards on its website at http://www.ready.gov/.  The resources include the following recommendations of items to consider including in a basic emergency supply kit that can be grabbed quickly in urgent situations:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation;
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food;
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both;
  • Flashlight and extra batteries;
  • First aid kit;
  • Whistle to signal for help;
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place;
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation;
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities;
  • Manual can opener for food;
  • Local maps;
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.

Such kits can be modified or expanded to accommodate for the family size and whatever situation might be possible in the area.  For example, for those who travel winter roads, similar kits with water, food, shovels and winter clothing, including boots, gloves and hats, can be kept in vehicles in case a winter storm causes unexpected car trouble and road closures. 

The more prepared we are to manage the worst the better.  Assessing our preparedness, planning and ensuring that we have necessary resources can make a considerable difference in making sure we have what we need to get through whatever may come our way.

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