Emergency Preparedness

Winter is here—are you prepared?

Here in Central Massachusetts we’ve weathered serious winter storms that have knocked out the power in some areas for a week to more than two weeks. If we learned nothing else from those experiences, we learned this: it pays to be prepared!

But, winter, spring, summer, or fall, there are always reasons to be prepared—not only because of the whims of Mother Nature, but also because of things like fires, accidents that take out the power or spill toxic chemicals, or even the economy! (Did you know that one of the events Bolton’s Emergency Management team is most concerned about is a toxic spill on I-495?)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that people make preparations to live on their own for at least 72 hours, attending to basic needs like water, shelter, food, and clothing. (See the FEMA website at www.ready.gov/ for detailed emergency planning information.)

However, having lived through—or witnessed via today’s instant communications systems—emergencies of all stripes, millions of people make it a point to make preparations that will carry them through a longer period. (The Mormon Church counsels its members to store up a year’s supply of food and other necessities!)

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. We mentioned the economy: in a faltering economy, job loss could be a disaster for some, while others may be totally unaffected. It pays to know what events could bring calamity to your door, and plan accordingly.

Some immediate and sudden emergencies may cause you to leave your home; others may require that you “shelter in place.” And emergencies can happen to you when you’re not at home: it pays to stock an emergency kit in your car. For those of us in winter’s path, it’s a wise idea to keep a shovel, a blanket, flares, jumper cables, and extra warm clothing in the car, in addition to some of the items you’ll find on the list below.

Emergency Preparedness List

The following Basic Emergency Preparedness list comes from the FEMA website at http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit/kit-print.html.

Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:

  • 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 NOAA 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

  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)

  • Local maps

  • Cell phone with chargers

Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Prescription medications and glasses

  • Infant formula and diapers

  • Pet food and extra water for your pet

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container

  • Cash or traveler's checks and change

  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.

  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.

  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.

  • Fire Extinguisher

  • Matches in a waterproof container

  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels

  • Paper and pencil

  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Additional Resources:

Websites: FEMA: http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/emergency_planning.shtm

Books: Just in Case, How to be Self-Sufficient When The Unexpected Happens, by Kathy Harrison