FORT LEE, Va. – One of the harshest realities an individual or family may face following a major incident or natural disaster is the amount of time it takes for help to arrive.
Most assume immediate assistance is just a 9-1-1 call away. What they fail to consider is emergency personnel – whether police, fire, medical or those providing utility services – will have a large influx of calls to handle, and it may take them a lot longer than normal to render assistance.
“That’s a very important reason why having an emergency supply kit is essential to making it through a disaster’s aftermath safely,” advised Thomas Loden, installation emergency manager for the Fort Lee Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. “The contents of a well-prepared kit will meet individual needs or those of an entire family for anywhere between 72-96 hours.”
The best time to assemble a kit, or check and restock its contents, is now – or the next immediate opportunity when you’re at home or out shopping and can easily gather the must-have items, Loden noted. Citing “undeniable threats” like hurricane season that continues through Nov. 30 and severe late-summer storms that produce tornadoes and widespread power outages, he said it is imperative for community members to act on the recommendations of emergency planners.
“Too many people wait … they don’t want to be bothered with it right now,” Loden said. “Then, a large storm knocks on our door and they’re out there trying to gather needed supplies at a time when store shelves empty quickly and coveted items, like batteries and bottled water, are nearly impossible to find.”
Loden mentioned additional benefits of preassembled and well-stocked emergency kits. They enhance the capability to evacuate quickly if ordered to do so by community leaders. If individuals need to take refuge at an emergency shelter, the kit would offer essential needs as well as comfort items like warm blankets and fresh clothes. The continued threat of COVID-19 should not be overlooked either. A kit can ensure required infection prevention safeguards like masks, disinfecting wipes, hand soap and other sanitary products are assembled and readily available.
When building or inspecting an emergency kit, Loden advised community members to consider carefully all items they or their family would need if assistance were not immediately available.
The minimum recommendations include the following:
• Food – at least a three-day supply for adults, children and infants, as applicable, that does not need electricity for storage or preparation
• A manual can opener
• Water – at least three gallons per person for drinking and sanitation (Don’t forget pets, if applicable)
• Prescription medications and eye wear
• Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and sturdy shoes
• Infant care items, if applicable, such as diapers and clothes that will keep them warm
• Protective masks and sanitary supplies such as disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, soap and garbage bags
• A battery-powered (or hand-cranked) radio with weather band and extra batteries
• Flashlight(s) and extra batteries
• A first aid kit
• A written family emergency plan
• Copies of important family documents such as insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
Once you have the essentials, add the following recommended items:
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Whistle to signal for help
• Dust mask to help filter contaminated air plus plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter where you are
• Items for pets
• Local maps
• Cash in small denominations or traveler’s checks and change
• Emergency reference material such as a first aid book
• Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
• Household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper (when diluted in water, bleach can be used to kill germs)
• Fire extinguisher
• Matches in a waterproof container
• Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
• Paper cups, plates and plastic knives, forks and spoons, paper towels
• Paper and pencil
• Books, games, puzzles or activities for children
Assembling and/or maintaining a well-stocked emergency supply kit provides peace of mind – knowing that you are prepared if disaster strikes and immediate help is not available – and it meets one of the important goals of September’s National Preparedness Month observance.
Local and national emergency readiness experts also recommend a “whole family” approach to disaster preparedness. Kids should know where they could take shelter, what numbers to call if they can’t get ahold of mom or dad, escape routes from a damaged home, where the emergency kit is kept and much more.
There are several resources available to assist with emergency planning and preparation, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency Mobile App at www.fema.gov/mobile-app and the children and youth preparedness toolkit at www.ready.gov/youth-toolkit.