Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What you can do to prepare for a disaster

By Julie Bowman

People rely on the government to immediately save them during a disaster or crisis for a variety of reasons, but mostly due to a lack of preparedness.  People don't prepare for a number of reasons  (I think of them as the preparedness myths):

  • The idea that it won’t happen here or to me so I don’t need to worry.
  • The sometimes overwhelming feeling that goes along with becoming prepared, so people give up.
  • The costs people associate with becoming prepared. 
  • The idea that if I have insurance I don’t need to prepare.  

All of these reasons may seem valid, but in reality, they aren’t and they really are myths in a sense.

A 72-hour kit can be large or small
People in the preparedness field (emergency managers and , yes, private vendors) need to convince people not only of the importance of being prepared for an emergency as individuals and families, but they also need to provide them the information necessary to convince them their reasons are myths. Emergency managers can accomplish this in some relatively simple ways.

First, emergency personnel need to utilize every possible opportunity to reach the public with accurate information about preparedness.

  • Most cities send out some form of newsletter with the water billing statement; in the first issue of the year, do a brief article about preparedness and then tell that each month there will be a step listed to help the public become prepared; follow up with a monthly step that will equip families with the essentials by the end of the year.  
  • Utilize local cable access programming and consider creating a monthly show that demonstrates putting together preparedness supplies using what you already have at home.  
  • Create a public outreach program that not only teaches the how’s of preparedness, but the why’s as well.  
  • Often times, people don’t understand why they need to prepare, so teach about the hazards that exist in the community and what the city will do to prioritize their response to issues in the aftermath.
  • Teach the programs in churches, community centers, local fraternal organizations such as the Elks Club and the Lions Club.  
  • Use non-profits and volunteers to help teach preparedness and help people make 72-hour kits. The Disaster Discovery Center in Utah is trying to do just that.
  • Another thing to do is reach out to the kids in the elementary schools with preparedness information; teach them how important it is for each family to have a preparedness plan.  Once you get the kids involved and understanding, the parents will follow because the kids will make them (McKay, 2012). 

 A key to teaching preparedness is to not overwhelm people with the information.  Reiterate that preparedness is a process – you don’t have to do it all in one big bite, instead, approach it in small increments and you don’t have to go to great expense to get there.

Second, businesses, families, and individuals can do a lot to help themselves recover from a disaster and be resilient.

  •  Each of these groups should create a disaster recovery plan.  This should include communication information, evacuation lists, important papers and documents, insurance information.  
  • Outline the things that need to be done to recover, and then make a plan that suits your needs and budget to become resilient if the worst ever does happen.  
  • At the UVU Emergency Services Conference last spring, we learned from Darlene Turner of the Disaster Discovery Center about Rebound in 72™, a plan for personal resiliency. It broke down the preparedness process into eight areas of need in our lives by timeframes post impact.  This plan is a method that simplifies the entire process into those easily digestible bites.  Adopt this plan or something similar to ensure you are covering all of your disaster needs.  Then, begin obtaining/doing those things that fulfil the needs outlined.  Make sure you have a plan for shelter, food & water, clothing, sanitation & hygiene, communication, and transportation.  
  • At least annually, update your plans and any kits you have created (72 hour kits, car kits, tool kits, first aid kits, etc.), and replace expired and outdated items.  Change out stored water at the same time.  
  • Talk with your family about your plan and practice those things that you can practice.  

How to create a 72-hour kit with minimal resources

It is important to get people moving in the direction of having a 72 hour kit, but recognizing that you don't have to create it overnight.  See what you already have at home first.  People would be surprised at how much they already have.  Sure, my 72 hour kit is probably the Cadillac of 72 hour kits and it is likely overkill, but since I don't like to camp, I've tried to plan for every possible contingency, and I'm blessed to have the resources to do so.  At the other end of the spectrum are basic (and I do mean basic) survival based 72 hour kits.  We just put them together for $8 each (excluding food, which can be obtained in the way of meal bars - 3 each day for 3 days - for about $12).  It is amazing how little you really NEED to survive for 72 hours. 

72-hour kits at school

The idea of having a 72 hour kit for my child at school is one we have been working on for quite some time with a lot of resistance.  The school says there is no place to keep them in the classrooms and they don't see 72 hour kits for the kids as necessary at school.  So I finally created a little kit in a 25 oz. wide mouth water bottle specifically for her to carry in her backpack back and forth to school each day.  It does not contain all the same items that would be in a normal, basic 72 hour kit, but it does have things for her to eat, an emergency blanket, a small inflatable pillow, water filtration tablets, a tiny stuffed animal, a picture of the family and a note from mom and dad along with a couple other things. It also includes my contact numbers and phone numbers of family out-of-state. It is lightweight and it does the job.  I also have her keep a factory sealed water bottle in her desk and I make sure she has a full water bottle with her each morning when she goes out the door.  There are always simple things we can do to be at least a little prepared.          

Become informed if you aren’t, and begin preparing!     

McKay, J. (2012, August). Who’s prepared? Not many.  Emergency Management. Retrieved from

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