The horrible Haiti earthquake catastrophe has left about 200,000 dead, as well as hundreds of thousands more people injured and homeless. It seems clear, based on media reports, that many more lives may have been saved if proper emergency preparedness plans and procedures had been in place.
Since Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for most Haitians to have the resources to prepare for such a tragic national disaster.
However, in the United States, virtually all Americans can — and should — take the basic preparations to be ready for any natural or man-made disaster.
What survival lessons can we learn from the heartbreaking Haiti earthquake disaster?
A booklet published a few years ago by the National Crime Prevention Council, "United for a Stronger America: Citizens' Preparedness Guide," gives some superb and practical preparedness tips.
In this column, I will review some parts of this important pamphlet.
First, here are some outstanding "general emergency preparedness" ideas that you and your family may want to consider using when facing a multitude of situations – both man-made and natural calamities.
1. Make a list of important local numbers. Write down important local numbers, such as the non-emergency numbers for the police department, fire department and the FBI field office. Keep these numbers by the phone and make copies for yourself and your family to keep in their wallets.
2. Write down phone numbers and contact information for your family. Keep one copy by the phone and provide others to family and friends.
3. Make a neighborhood directory and plan. Include emergency contact information and plans for children and seniors who may be home alone during emergency situations. Identify neighbors who need additional help, such as young children, seniors and those with disabilities, and develop a plan to assist them in an emergency.
4. Make your house easy to find. Make sure your street address is large and well lit so that emergency personnel can find your home quickly.
5. Organize an emergency preparedness kit. Check batteries, change the stored water and rotate the food supplies every six months. Your kit should contain the following supplies:
- A three- to five-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
- Food that will not spoil and requires no cooking.
- A first-aid kit and needed medicines (consult your physician or pharmacist about storing medications and keep copies of your prescriptions).
- Emergency tools like a battery-powered radio, cell phones, flashlight and extra batteries.
- Personal items like toilet paper and plastic garbage bags.
- A portable emergency generator if possible.
A Quick Security Tip: The American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide information about what to include in supply kits and how to learn about CPR and First Aid training in your neighborhood.
To learn more, please contact the Red Cross at 1-866-GET-INFO or at www.redcross.org, and FEMA at 1-800-480-2520 or at www.fema.gov/pte/displan.htm.
Also, the publication suggests the following evacuation plans:
1. Develop a home evacuation plan and practice it with your family and neighbors. Know what to do if you are instructed to evacuate your home or community.
- Every child or other member of your family should know exactly how to get out of your home in case of a fire or other emergency.
- Find at least two ways out of each room in your home if possible.
- If you live in an apartment building, know the evacuation plan.
- Agree on a place nearby to meet once everyone gets out of the house or apartment.
2. Plan how to take care of pets. Remember that, with the exception of guide dogs, shelters usually do not allow pets.
3. Learn how to shut off utilities such as gas, electricity and water.
These are merely a few basic ideas about "being prepared."
Contact the National Crime Prevention Council at www.weprevent.org for more information on this vital topic. In addition, be sure to visit READY.gov for even more ideas on emergency preparedness for you, your family and business.
My Final Thoughts: Being ready for the unexpected emergency is always a helpful idea. A catastrophe can occur at any place, at any time, without any warning. From possible acts of terrorism to an earthquake, and from large-scale power outages to a tornado, your emergency preparedness efforts may need to be put into action at a moment's notice.
There is a multitude of outstanding resources available to you from both governmental agencies and non-profit organizations, so do your research and formulate the best emergency plan for you and your family's individual needs.
Please keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers, and consider helping the victims of this terrible disaster by donating to a worthwhile charity.
Copyright 2010 by Bruce Mandelblit
Bruce (www.CrimeZilla.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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