Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness
Historically Speaking
February 26, 2014
Donna M. Street

Sometimes in Dade County, we are more reactive, than proactive. I once explained jokingly to some new arrivals in our fair community that the motto for Dade County should be “Backwards with Fervor”. This week I take on a topic that (I hope) will prove me wrong. Almost three years ago, (April 27, 2011 to be exact) our little community was tested as we never had been. Those nasty tornadoes splayed us open, but we rose above and loved our neighbor as ourselves and put our town back together. Of course there are still physical and emotional scars, but by and large our community is stronger than before some ugly weather tore our world in half. Okay so, I want us, as a community, to become proactive about being prepared for any future emergency. As I fiddled around my house until about 2 a.m. last Thursday night trying to decide if I needed to go to the storm closet, I realized that this week’s article needed to be a reminder to all of us to do something to be prepared for our next weather event. I want to see our history change our possible future ability to deal with natural disasters and emergencies.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a great website which is vast. Information is multilayered and a bit confusing, but it has information that we all need. This website http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit will help you get prepared. They state that “all Americans should have some basic supplies on hand in order to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs.”
The basic list is as follow:
 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 (I plan to add a roll of toilet paper to my kit.)
 Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
 Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
 Local Map (At first this seemed unnecessary and then I remember how the people in Tuscaloosa could not recognize their own community because so many street sign were blown away in the tornadoes.)

That is the basic list and it doesn’t seem too much trouble to put together. The site continues with some things that you might wish to consider adding to your kit. They are:
 Prescription medicine and extra glasses
 Instant formula and diapers
 Pet food and extra water supply 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
 Sleeping bag or blanket for each person.
 Complete change of clothes including long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes
 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 bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
 Matches in a waterproof container
 Personal and female hygiene supplies
 Mess kit, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
 Paper and Pencil
 Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children (of all ages)

This information can be printed in checklist form from the website above. It also suggests that families create an emergency plan and there is a form there that you can print and create a plan. After our storms, I heard a lot of parents and teachers talk about how scared the kids still are every time the sky darkens and they hear thunder and see lightening. One way to help them continue to heal is to give them a way to have some control. Helping to create a family emergency plan will give them as much control as anyone can have in that kind of an emergency. That proactive thing can start really young.

Another way to prepare our community is to create Community Emergency Response Teams. CERT teams have become what Civil Defense was during the Cold War years. Our sheriff, Ray Cross, in cooperation with Walker County offered the first two weekend (16 hours) training sessions and I was proud to be a participant. I learned or relearned quite a bit in about 16 hours. I really haven’t done much about that information since I finished the training, but I certainly did get my materials and manuals out during the storm on Thursday night and refresh myself. Following through by engaging my neighbors is the next step that I have to take. Getting all of their emergency phone numbers and making a plan to check on each other is on my priority list for the next few weeks.
The most obvious things that I saw during our training is that we need more CERT teams. And we have natural organizational path and that is through our churches. We saw our community churches rise to the challenge when needed, but we would have been much more ready if there had been emergency teams in place at every church in the county. People don’t always know their neighbors well, but they do know their church neighbors. I would encourage several or all churches to approach the powers that be about planning some more training sessions. The sheriff and some of his staff would probably be excited to take the CERT training for Dade to the next level.
I might not be able to execute everything that I learned during my training, but it made me aware and taught me some basic things that are now part of my database for an emergency. It’s also certain that my passion for this will probably never be what our trainer’s was, but there is somebody in this community that would take building CERT Teams on as his/her passion. Another point– age does not matter. I was one of the oldest participants and there were several in my age group, but there were also several pre-teens and teens in the group. The fire departments for Dade County are one of our most valued resources. Our volunteers are the “good ‘ole boys” that I learned to love as a teacher. They are the guys and gals who are going to be there in an emergency and go beyond what is asked without a thought for pay or sometimes their own personal safety. We need to add another layer of volunteerism to our bag of community resources. Knowledge and preparedness are the goal.

In the last few weeks, the news has been full of the water contamination troubles of Charleston, West Virginia. This kind of water emergency is not out of the realm of possibility for any community. While we are preparing, it won’t hurt to check out other places to pay attention. The Center for Disease Control has a very good article entitled “Emergency Water Supplies” at http://cdc.gov/preparedness/kit/water/index.asp . The best tip that I read there is to “learn where the water intake valve to your home is. If you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines, you’ll need to shut off water to your house to avoid letting contaminated water enter your home. Listen to local warnings for more instructions.”

Lastly if you have not signed up for Code Red Alert, then please do so. Code RED ALERT is an automated system used by our local emergency management agency to let citizens know when it is time to pay attention. Alex Case is the Emergency Management Coordinator for Dade County. The automated calls are not invasive or often, but they surely won’t work if citizens are not in the loop. To learn about the program or sign up go to http://www.dadecounty-ga.gov/CodeRed . To quote the Dade County Government website, “Residents without Internet access may visit the public library within the county to use a computer or call the Dade County Sheriff’s Department at 706-657-8774 to give their information over the phone.” (Of course, the community knows how I feel about using that library. LOL)
I leave you with the following challenges over the next few weeks.

1. Start and finish an emergency kit for your family.
2. Start and finish a family emergency plan.
3. Consider starting a CERT Team at your church or in your neighborhood.
4. Sign up for Code RED Alert.
Proactive might not be such a stretch after all.

Note: Hope to see several of you at the Historical Society Meeting on Sunday, March 2 at 3p.m. at the Public Library.

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