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Senior scene

July 23, 2011

From the Office: Take steps now to be prepared for a disaster

This year is the fifth anniversary of the flood of June 2006. You may have seen the series of articles in The Daily Star that showed the devastation in Otsego and surrounding counties. It was a really good reminder of the need to be prepared for emergencies throughout the year.

What do you need to do to be prepared? Ready.gov recommends three steps: Get A Kit, Make a Plan and Stay Informed!

Why a kit?

You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies to last at least three days and possibly longer.

What is in a basic emergency supply kit?

Water: one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation.

Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food such as canned meats and fish, peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, granola bars etc. Include any special foods for infants or other members of your household who have special needs.

Can opener: non-electric

Radio: battery-powered or hand cranked and a NOAA weather radio, and extra batteries .

Flashlight: extra batteries.

Whistle: to signal for help.

Protection: a dust mask to help filter contaminates and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place.

Personal sanitation supplies: moist towelettes, hand sanitizer, trash bags and personal hygiene items.

Wrench or pliers: to turn off utilities.

Local maps.

Cellphone: include charger, inverter and or solar charger.

What additional items should I include?

Medications and glasses: both prescription and over the counter as well as a medication list and copy of your eye glass prescription.

Money: Cash, change and travelers checks

Important documents: Copies of insurance policies, identification, bank account information, etc. in a waterproof, portable container.

Extra clothing: include a full change of clothing plus warm clothing and a blanket for old weather and long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.

Eating utensils and plates: include paper towels.

And don't forget your pets. They need food, water, medication and supplies. You may also want to include paper and pencils, books, games etc.

So why a plan?

You and your family may not be together when disaster strikes or your friends or family who do not live with you will want to check on your safety. It is important to plan in advance how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.

The first thing to do in a personal emergency plan is to identify an out-of-town contact. In the event of an emergency, it can be easier to make a long-distance phone call than a local one.

Make sure everyone has the phone numbers for the contact person.

If you have a cellphone list the contact's number under ICE (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. Make sure your family and friends have the number as well. Make sure you keep the contact informed.

If you don't text message, consider learning to do so. Text messages can get through when a call can not.

Identify places to meet in your neighborhood; outside of your neighborhood, but within your community and outside your immediate community.

Identify what kinds of disasters are most likely to occur in your area and plan for those types of events.

Some events such as flooding, lengthy power outages etc. may require that you evacuate your home, others such as illness or things affecting the air such as a chemical spill may require that you say where you are and take precautions to keep the event from affecting you, such as sealing doors and windows.

Consider keeping an emergency kit in your car and keep your car in good repair and the gas tank half full.

How to Stay Informed

Sign-up for emergency alert systems such as NY Alert. NY Alert sends emails, text or phone messages based on your specific request regarding potential weather emergencies. Listen to radio and TV broadcasts and buy and use a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert.

Otsego County residents who would like help developing their own emergency plan or additional information on emergency preparedness are welcome to call the Office for the Aging at 547-4232 or 432-9041.

Frances Wright is director of the Otsego County Office for the Aging. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.

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