Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are You Prepared?


By Jane M. Hawley

Trained by the American Red Cross to lead Disaster Action Teams, and by FEMA as a member of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) in our area, and having observed the disasters and conditions in the world which bring alarm, I write this article in hopes that I might encourage others to become better prepared. I would propose this question: "How will you feel when others who depend on you suffer needlessly because you did not take preventative measures against disaster? I would like to share the following experience as an example where disaster planning could have made the difference:

During July of 2007, in an area right outside of St. George , Utah , we had an experience that has caused me great concern about disaster preparedness. A lightening storm bolted through the tinder-dry mountainous region 3 miles east of our home. The forest fire threatened the power lines supplying our entire county of 100,000 people. The front windows of our rural home framed this dramatic scene as we watched 30' flames amidst the raging fire becoming out of control. Helicopters, tankers, planes and fire crews were engaged in a hot battle.

The greatest concern came when the smoke engulfed the power lines. Smoke can create arcs of electricity between the lines and the ground. Multiple fires could ignite along the 80-mile stretch of power line if something were not done quickly. Authorities decided the only thing that could be done was to "power down." The countywide power outage began at 4:25 p.m. on this very hot, July day of 110 + degrees, just before the evening commute was to begin.

In the first several hours, there was much confusion and chaos. The stream of information was slow and scanty at best. No one seemed to be able to answer the demanding questions of "what happened?" and "how long until we have our power back?" As the fire raged on and homes were flooded with the summer heat, people grew more concerned and tuned into the local radio stations for information. Here's a small taste of what happened:

* I called my husband immediately to let him know of my planned route of travel home. I had a full tank of gas and a gallon of water in my car. I took the route with the least amount of traffic, nonetheless, what would normally have taken 25 minutes, took 1 hour to get home.
* Communication became difficult. Within 5 minutes after I used my cell phone to call home the circuits were busy and remained that way for the next 6 hours.
* Traffic lights were without power which created a traffic gridlock and many frustrated travelers. It took many commuters 1 to 3 hours to get home, in what should have been minutes.
* It was reported that only 2 to 3 gas stations had back-up generators to pump fuel. Those stations had long lines, quickly ran out of fuel-then closed.
* People became stranded and couldn't get home. With the cell phones overloaded many of those people could not call for help. I15 travelers were out-of-luck for their expected needs as well.
* There were overheated and stalled vehicles along the roadways.
* Businesses quickly closed their doors having lost their lights, automatic doors, elevators, security systems, electronic cash registers, and all ability to conduct credit or debit transactions.
* CASH was the only method of payment accepted. With banks closed and credit or debit card machines down, no cash could be obtained by these means. The people who were able to purchase gas and supplies were those who had cash.
* Radio stations were a great help, but with the absence of official information there were many assumptions, rumors, misinformation, anger and panic being expressed by citizens who shared their comments on the air, live and unscreened.
* The hospital went into emergency mode and began treating those affected by heat, and those who had health conditions that required medical devices, monitors, oxygen, etc.
* Many of the elderly and those in convalescent homes had to be evacuated to Dixie State College to escape the heat and be treated for heat-related problems.
* Within the first two hours the local water tanks were nearly dry. The pumps were down for lack of power and the citizens in the county were instructed to use water for DRINKING ONLY (no showers or unnecessary flushing of toilets, etc).
* Stores began to lose their inventory of refrigerated foods and frozen items.
* Police, fire and emergency officials were on overload.
* Hotel rooms in the nearby town of Mesquite , Nevada , went from $35 a night to $350 a night as people flocked to their doors to get out of the heat.
* Dining in Mesquite required hours of waiting in long lines before people could get their meals.

I found it amazing how ill-prepared the majority were to live without power, in the heat, and without essential services for such a short time. In our family we learned a few lessons ourselves. Situations like these cause us to reflect and question, "How prepared is my family for an emergency? I strongly urge you to consider situations that could affect your locale, and then set up an emergency plan to accommodate your future needs. Here are some things you should consider:

Power Outage......................................Severe Storm

Flood....................................................Lightening Strikes

House Fire............................................Forest or Brush Fire

Severe Smoke & Ash............................Streets Closed to Home



Hazardous Material Spill......................Evacuation

Truck Strike........................................Terrorist Attack or Invasion

Chemical Attack...................................Nuclear Accident

Highways/Bridges Down.....................Quarantine


Make a two-fold plan: SHELTER IN PLACE (staying where you are) and EVACUATION (leaving your home). There are many wonderful books available on this subject that can help you be fully prepared. Check out your library, bookstores & internet.


Consider all of your needs for 3 days and include those items in your kit. Go through those kits every year and update clothing sizes and items with expirations.


Have a hand-cranked radio, a no-battery required home telephone, and a cell phone with a back-up battery or solar charger. Several Walky-Talkies placed on the same station that extend a number of miles could also be effective for families living in the same area. Have coins to use in public telephones.


Determine as a family where you would meet if unable to reach one another. Also have an out-of-state contact which each of you could call to assure that everyone is okay, or what you are planning to do.


Consider ways to get about under varied conditions. Keeping your gas tank as full as possible is a first step. Have a good pair of shoes for walking. Have other means such as bicycles, wagons, ATV's, and/or horses.


Obtain what you need in small bills and some coin for at least 30 days.


Water is critical. Have reserves available, not only for drinking, but for cooking and hygiene needs. A survival ration is one gallon per day, per person. Have at the very least, a 2-week supply for each person. Keep several gallons in your car and also consider water purification methods and treatments.


HEAT: Have battery & solar operated fans, spray bottles, sunglasses, hats & sunscreen. COLD: Have gloves, hats, coats, boots, & scarves. RAIN: Have waterproof ponchos & waterproof boots, with extra clothing.


Consider fireplaces & stoves for cold weather, storing no less then 4 cords for the winter. Consider a generator, and solar unit.


A 3-month supply of prescription medications is best. Have over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies & essential oils on hand. Consider the need for natural antibiotics. Have potassium iodine on hand to protect the thyroid in the event of radiation. Give special consideration to those who need oxygen, daily injections, inhalers, etc.


Have a good First Aid book and kit, CPR mask, splints, etc. Consider how to care for blisters on your feet and shoe pads. Know what needs to be done in any number of incidences that could occur in a disaster to ease pain, assist in healing & save life.


It is recommended that every family should have a 30 to 90 day supply of food they are accustomed to eating. A one-year supply is ideal. START NOW! Stores either close immediately or are empty in less than 24 hours. Special dietary needs should also be considered. Grow a garden, plant fruit trees & berry bushes. Learn to bottle & dehydrate foods. Supplement with vitamins & minerals as well. Find a way & do it now!


Consider your cooking needs if there were no power: propane oven, stove & grill; charcoal grill, pit & dutch oven; wood fire pit; pots, pans, utensils, dishes, can openers, serving dishes, etc; towels, wash rags, wash bins, detergent, scouring pad; paper towels, paper & plastic dishware & utensils; tables and chairs.


Don't depend on someone else to shelter you against the elements. Hotels may be booked for miles. Be ready with your own tent, sleeping bags, tarps, etc... Consider how you will transport these items. If possible, have racks mounted on top of your vehicle, and/or have a transport trailer or camper.


Make sure you have several sources of light such as flashlights, kerosene lamps, lanterns, candles, oil lamps, solar lights, and glow sticks. Don't forget batteries, matches, etc.


Have clothing and footwear for heat and cold. Consider what you would wear in the heart of a snowy winter day without heat.


Have lotion, shampoo, soap, moist towelettes, make-up, powder, etc.


Know the principles of sanitation, how deep and how wide to dig an area for waste products, depending upon the size of your group. Have portable toilets, bags to enclose waste, disinfectants, etc. Consider how you will contain & dispose of garbage.


Consider the many needs of infants, the elderly, the handicapped, pets, other animals & livestock. Make a list and purchase!


Have an ID, photo & birth certificates for each person. Have insurance papers, bank records, living wills, trusts, maps, addresses & phone numbers, etc., and place them in a water-proof receptacle.

Remember, disasters rarely come with a warning. I encourage you to calmly and quickly obtain information to educate & prepare yourself, NOW, while you are comfortable and safe, for TOMORROW may not be so!

Preparedness takes time, money, energy and ACTION… it's enemy is procrastination - "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"

So you see, the Law of Unintended Consequences cascaded through a series of events that caught everyone off-guard.

* What would happen in your city, home or family in the event of a local disaster/emergency?
* Are you prepared to shelter-in-place if necessary?
* Can you meet the needs of your family for an extended period of time if the much talked about pandemic finds its way to your area and a quarantine is imposed?

Are you prepared?

Response to the captioned photos in the last entry was quite enthusiastic. So I plan to continue to include additional photos as they're appropriate to the current entry's topic (and probably even if they aren't!). I DO think the following is totally apropos to today's entry!

President James E. Faust
Some have said, "We have followed this counsel in the past and have never had need to use our year's supply, so we have difficulty keeping this in mind as a major priority." Perhaps following this counsel could be the reason why they have not needed to use their reserve (Ensign, May 1986, p.22).