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Disaster Preparedness 101 (Dec 18, 2007)
In the wake of last week’s ice storm, more than half a million homes and businesses– or one out of every three Oklahomans – were left in the dark. Now that most of the power is restored and cleanup efforts have begun, we thought we’d take this opportunity to think about what can be done in future disasters. We speak with Arlene Hoag, author of the book Do-It-Yourself Emergency Preparedness: How Ordinary People Prepare for Extra-Ordinary Events.

“While no one can prevent a disaster, they can definitely prepare for it and lessen its impact,” says Hoag, by creating an emergency preparedness plan. Among the measures she recommends:

  • Maintain an adequate supply of clean drinking water stored. The Red Cross recommends one gallon per person per day. Alternately, use a filter to purify water from a nearby source. If an emergency starts and you haven’t planned ahead, she says, refrain from showering, flushing the toilet or washing dishes until you fill up every container you can find with potable water.

  • When you go to the grocery store from now on, buy two of all the (non-perishable) staples you normally buy. Hoag advises people to maintain a three-day supply of food that’s packaged for long-term storage and that doesn’t require cooking. Camping stoves, wood stoves and barbeque grills can also be used as backup means of cooking if your gas and/or power are out, but they must be used outdoors or with adequate ventilation.

  • Keep backup lighting like candles, flashlights and kerosene lamps available in every room of your house. Know where your matches are.

  • Buy a battery-powered radio (or better yet, one that has solar panels or is powered by winding) so that you can stay informed during the emergency. Being able to receive new about what’s happening will enable you to make better decisions.

  • Have a backup way to heat your house. If you have a fireplace, stock up on wood. Another possibility is to buy an un-vented heater with an adequate supply or kerosene or propane fuel. Hoag says these can be a bit hard to find and require adequate ventilation, but they could mean the difference between being able to stay in your home or having to seek shelter elsewhere.

  • Read more in Arlene Hoag’s book Do-It-Yourself Emergency Preparedness: How Ordinary People Prepare for Extra-Ordinary Events.

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