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Packed and ready for anything

Posted: November 30, 2008 4:25 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Roxanne-Madeline Sengok, left, of the American Red Cross Greater Los Angeles Chapter speaks to seniors about disaster preparedness on Nov. 26 during her presentation at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center. The lecture, part of the Center's free weekly Health and Wellness program, featured valuable information on creating disaster preparedness...

With the Southern California Regional ShakeOut earthquake drill, raging wildfires and heavy rains still fresh in many community members' minds, disaster preparedness training is certainly a relevant topic - especially for seniors.

Do you have an emergency preparedness kit assembled? Does it have adequate, fresh food supplies and medications? How about food or special needs for your pets? Do you have a list of important contact numbers?

These considerations are among the list of must-do things if you want to be your own best first responder and ride out any storm in the safest, healthiest manner.

To facilitate such education - and help community members feel the comfort that only comes when one has prepared for disasters - the following American Red Cross-derived information is presented.

Are you "Red Cross Ready?" Do you have a disaster kit packed and easily available? Do you re-stock it every six months for freshness and efficacy?

If you're like many people, you occasionally think about emergencies but you haven't planned ahead by making a complete, easily accessible kit. While you can order necessary supplies through the American Red Cross, you can also cost-effectively make your own emergency preparedness kits. Here is an overview of what you'll need (Note: The American Red Cross offers an even more thorough version online):

n Water: Have at least one gallon per person per day. Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need more.

n Food: Pack non-perishable, high-protein items, including energy bars, ready-to-eat soup, peanut butter, etc. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. (If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, try to stick to it when planning here.)

n Flashlight: Hand-crank and alternative energy options are available. Include extra batteries, if applicable.

n First aid kit: Include a first aid reference guide. Should include: (20) adhesive bandages, various sizes; one 5" by 9" sterile dressing; one conforming roller gauze bandage; two triangular bandages; two 3 by 3 sterile gauze pads; two 4 by 4 sterile gauze pads; one roll 3" cohesive bandage; germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer; six antiseptic wipes; two pair large medical grade non-latex gloves; adhesive tape, 2" width; anti-bacterial ointment; a cold pack; scissors (small, personal); tweezers; and a CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield.

n Medications: Don't forget your prescription and non-prescription items. It's also a good idea to keep a written list of any conditions or illnesses you have, including what you take for them. Make sure to pack aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever; anti-diarrhea medication; antacid (for stomach upset); Syrup of Ipecac (to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center); laxative; and activated charcoal (to use if advised by the Poison Control Center).

n Radio: Include extra batteries or use a hand-crank radio.

n Tools and supplies: Gather a wrench to turn off gas if necessary, a manual can opener, screwdriver, hammer, pliers, compass, knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting, garbage bags and (twisty) ties, a whistle, tube tent, fire extinguisher (small canister ABC type), signal flare, matches in a waterproof container, emergency preparedness manual, paper and pencil.

n Clothing/bedding: Provide a change of clothes for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves, and make sure items are appropriate for all seasons. Have sleeping bags, sunglasses.

n Personal items: Remember copies of important papers, including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc.; eyeglasses, contact lenses and solution, and other items you might want, like books or games.

n Sanitation/hygiene supplies: Have toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, bleach, plastic garbage bags, and diapers/incontinency aides if needed.

n Money: Have cash on hand as ATMs and credit cards won't work if the power is out. The recommended amount is at least $200, preferably in small bills.

n Contact information: Carry a current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses, including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach if local phone lines are out of service or overloaded.

n Pet supplies: For each pet, include food, water, a collar, a leash / cage / carrying case, litter box or plastic bags, tags, any medications and vaccination information.

n Map: Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area. (A GPS navigation system is very handy - you can even get them on cell phones.)

n Special items: Don't forget items needed for family members with special requirements, such as infants and elderly or disabled persons.

Founded by Clara Barton in 1881, the American Red Cross is the nation's premier emergency response organization, offering neutral humanitarian care to victims of war as well as those affected by devastating natural disasters.

Its aim has consistently remained that of preventing and relieving suffering.

Today, in addition to domestic disaster relief, the volunteer-driven American Red Cross offers compassionate services in five other areas: community services that help the needy; support and comfort for military members and their families; the collection, processing and distribution of lifesaving blood and blood products; educational programs that promote health and safety; and international relief and development programs.

The Red Cross advises that all disaster preparedness supplies be stored in sturdy yet easy-to carry containers, and kept in a place that is easily accessible.

Also, keep a smaller version of the kit in your vehicle. That way, should you become stranded or are not able to return home, you'll be better able to stay comfortable until help arrives.

Finally, there's an old but timeless saying in the medical profession that bears repeating: "In an emergency, make sure you check your own pulse first."

In other words, if you don't have a calm, clear mind, how can you make safe and correct decisions for someone else? Taking that expression a bit more personally, it stands to reason that thoughtfully planning ahead for disasters is the best way to promote your own survival.

Each year, in communities large and small, victims of some 70,000 disasters turn to neighbors familiar and new - the more than half a million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross.

Through more than 700 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world.

Beyond having an emergency preparedness kit there is more to know about "packed and ready." Making plans and being informed are also important components.


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