September 1, 2004 | By: Ellen Brightwell

Recent weather disasters and the upcoming anniversary of 9/11 are reminders to prepare in advance for disasters and emergency situations.

"It is essential to know how to protect yourself and your household immediately after an emergency, because essential services may not be available and disaster responders might not be able to reach you right away," said Tom Priddy, a member of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Extension Disaster Education Network.

EDEN is a collaborative effort by Extension Services across the United States to better deliver services to residents affected by disasters. Part of the mission is to provide educational programs on disaster preparation and mitigation, assume appropriate roles during disasters and collaborate in recovery efforts.

Taking a few simple steps will help everyone prepare for disasters, according to Priddy, who also is a UK Extension agricultural meteorologist.

"To discover the most likely disaster risks in your area, talk with local law enforcement and emergency management officials," he said. "Develop a family disaster plan that includes a basic communications strategy. It will calm the nerves of distant relatives and may save lives. Prepare an emergency supply kit, because you may be without basic utilities for up to 72 hours in a major disaster. Collect supplies based on the most likely disasters in your area and seasonal needs."

"Home preparation, communication and evacuation are key ingredients to lessen the impact of a disaster or emergency situation," said Vivian Lasley-Bibbs, EDEN member and state specialist for health at Kentucky State University. "Develop a disaster plan in advance, keep it simple and be sure everyone knows where the disaster kit is located. It is good to go through emergency supplies at least once a year and update contents as needed."

Potential emergencies may include natural disasters, hazardous materials production, storage or transportation, and deliberate acts of terrorism. Talking with law enforcement and emergency personnel will improve preparation and response to these situations. Also, learn about employer and school system emergency-response plans.

Discuss how to respond to potential emergencies and evacuation procedures with members of the household.

"To help family members prepare, post emergency response and local utility services' numbers in a convenient location and have a Specific Area Message Encoder or National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration radio with a tone-alert feature," Lasley-Bibbs said.

(SAME radio technology lets residents program the radio to tone alert for a specific county or counties the listener designates.)

Lasley-Bibbs also advised families to identify a relative or friend who does not live in the area as an emergency contact, and to prepare an evacuation plan with several routes to the arranged meeting place. Remember to make plans for pets, because many shelters will not accept them.

"To reduce the economic impact of a disaster on your property, health and financial well-being, review property, health and life insurance policies to be sure they are current and the 
type and the coverage will meet your family's needs in any type of disaster," Priddy said. "It’s advisable to keep some money or traveler's checks in an accessible location in case of evacuation. Having an emergency savings account also is a good idea."

Additional emergency measures are necessary if someone in a household has a disability or special need. Register with emergency services so quick assistance is provided. Create a network of relatives, neighbors, friends and co-workers to help and be sure they know how to operate necessary equipment. To assist others, find out who is disabled in the building or neighborhood.

"In an emergency, people will need water, food and emergency supplies such as first aid items, tools and specialty items for three days, possibly much longer," Priddy said. "Disaster supplies should be kept ready to 'grab and go' at home and in the office. Also prepare a car kit of supplies that includes food, water, flares, jumper cables and seasonal supplies."


Writer: Ellen Brightwell 859-257-4736 ext. 257
Sources: Tom Priddy 859-257-7455
Vivian Lasley-Bibbs 502-597-6799