Preparation eases weathering a disaster

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Images of the Houston area’s inundated homes and distressed people brings back unpleasant memories of Iowa’s 2008 flood. Photos of people crammed into emergency shelters reminded us how unprepared many people are to weather a disaster.

Tremendous storms create such enormous need that emergency responders can’t begin to shelter, nourish and comfort all the anxious and grieving people. Rather than completely relying on them for help, families should make plans before a disaster strikes that enable them to survive in relative comfort.

Some disasters can be predicted far enough in advance to gather helpful supplies, but storms, earthquakes and a host of man-made catastrophes jump at us with no warning.

Two emergency situations can happen. One is a blizzard, ice storm or windstorm that knocks out utilities for a few days or weeks but otherwise causes little property damage and creates no evacuation need. The other is a massive disaster that compels evacuation.

We think every family should prepare for either by creating a disaster plan and assembling, storing and checking items periodically that could be lifesaving.

Some years ago, we bought two large storage bins, five large water containers, basic camping equipment and a few gas cans. The bins hold two weeks’ worth of dehydrated food, a backpacking stove, battery powered radio, water purification pills, toiletries and medications, flashlights, a couple of books and a contact list of friends and relatives. When electricity goes off, cellphones can’t be charged, so our recent addition to the bin was a solar powered charger. During power failures, credit cards may not work but cash does, so storing some is wise. Ready in our attic are sleeping bags, mattress pads and a tent. In the garage are 10 gallons of gas that could be used to run the car or fuel our camping lantern or cook stove.

If the power goes off during an extended blizzard we could comfortably stay home and live out of our bins. If we must evacuate, we’d grab the bins and water, camping stuff and gas and be on the road within 30 minutes. An hour or two later we’d be camped somewhere out of the disaster area.

Government and agency help is critical to the survival and recovery of people, homes and businesses damaged by disasters, but prudent individuals and families recognize that these agencies can be overwhelmed. Individual families having a plan and simple items dedicated to disaster survival could make a life or death difference.

• Marion and Rich Patterson own Winding Pathways LLC. Comments: windingpathways.com

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