Disaster Preparedness for Western Pennsylvania Families

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Every day our Pittsburgh Family Lawyers help families prepare for and manage various day-to-day family issues. Today, as our thoughts and prayers are with the millions affected by Hurricane Sandy, we are thankful that the storm has left Western Pennsylvaniarelatively unscathed. But experts are urging families everywhere to take this time to think about whether they would be prepared if a storm like Sandy came their way. With the average family’s busy schedule, disaster preparedness is something we often fail to think about before it happens. Unfortunately, that is precisely the problem. Too many of us put off preparing for the worst until it’s too late and, by then, bottled water and batteries are flying off grocery store shelves and families are left scrambling for necessities.

So, as families up and down the east coast are attempting to pick of the pieces that Sandy left behind, those of us lucky enough to have been spared by the storm should heed her warning and take an inventory of what we need to survive in the event of a disaster. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), through its Ready campaign, works to educate and empower Americans to take simple steps to prepare for and respond to potential emergencies, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks. FEMA suggests that families do three key things to prepare for an emergency: (1) Stock an emergency supply kit; (2) Make a family emergency plan; and (3) Be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and the appropriate response for each.

The following is a list of basic supplies every family should stock in their emergency supply kit:

•· Water: one gallon of drinking water per person, per day for at least three (3) days

•· Food: a canned (non-perishable) food supply for at least three (3) days (don’t forget the can opener!)

•· Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert (and extra batteries for both!!)

•· Flashlights and extra batteries

•· First aid kit (band aids, rubbing alcohol and antibiotic cream)

•· Whistle to signal for help

•· Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)

•· Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to create a shelter-in-place)

•· Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

•· Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

•· Local maps

•· Prescription medications and glasses

•· Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person (consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate)

•· Matches (in a waterproof container)

The following is a list of additional items to consider adding to your emergency supply kit (differs depending on your family’s needs):

•· Infant formula

•· Pet food and extra water 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

•· Emergency reference material (such as first aid book or information from www.ready.gov)

•· Complete change of clothing a 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 liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners) or other means of water filtration

•· Fire extinguisher

•· Mess kits, paper cups, plates, plastic utensils and paper towels

•· Paper and pencil

•· Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Remember, if disaster strikes, you and your family might not have access to food, water or electricity for some time. By taking the time now to prepare emergency water supplies, food supplies and other disaster necessities, you can ensure that your entire family will be safe in the event of a natural disaster.