published Friday, September 13th, 2013

Biz Bulletin: Stock up on key items to prepare for disaster

By Jim Winsett
  • photo
    BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett
    Photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt

Q. I understand that September is National Disaster Preparedness month. What are some things my family can do to prepare for in case of an emergency situation?

A. What better time to ensure your family's emergency readiness than with a month dedicated to your safety. The storm and tornado activity that has already happened in our communities these past few years vividly make this point. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when the seconds count. Better Business Bureau urges families to devise and discuss their disaster plans with their loved ones.

Safety is paramount in an emergency, but basic protective actions -- for instance, whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place -- can differ depending upon the disaster. There are important differences among potential emergencies that should influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.

Families should familiarize themselves with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) website, www.fema.gov. It outlines the emergencies that could potentially occur where you live and offers the appropriate ways to respond to each.

Two things every family requires no matter what the disaster, natural or from a terrorist, are an emergency plan and an emergency kit.

Recommended items for an emergency kit include:

• A gallon of water per person per day for three days

• A three-day supply of nonperishable food for each family member

• A flashlight with extra batteries

• A first-aid kit

• A whistle to signal for help

• Dust masks

• A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

• A power inverter or solar charger for your cellphone. Some have during an emergency even used their laptop as a back-up phone charger. You may like to be sure that is fully charged as well.

Also, you may consider including prescriptions (at the very least a list of prescriptions), infant formula and diapers, pet food and cash. Place copies of important family documents (insurance policies, identification and financial records) in a waterproof, portable container near your escape route. Pencil and paper, paper cups and plates, and plastic utensils are useful. And if you have kids, pack some games, books or puzzles. Maintaining your kit is important. You will want to replace stored water and food about every six months. Mark the date on containers or cans.

For an emergency plan, make sure all family members know where to meet and who to contact in the case you get separated. A relative or friend in another area is an ideal emergency contact person. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to send and receive text messages. Consider downloading reputable smart phone apps that provide emergency information.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.

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