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Extreme weather and natural disasters – does your family have a plan?

ThinkstockPhotos 695652742Watching the devastation in Texas from Hurrican Harvey last week is heartbreaking. Now Irma has Florida in her path. The phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I,” hits close when you realize that Maryland too is vulnerable to all types of extreme weather, which can quickly leave your family in an emergency situation.

According to reports from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), each year thousands of Americans are affected by disasters. Harvey and Irma may take those numbers into the millions. Locally, the Baltimore City Office of sustainability reports that Baltimore has seen a triple digit increase in flooding in the last 50 years, making it more essential than ever to be prepared. One way to be equipped for such a situation is to organize an emergency kit for your family.

An emergency kit is simply a supply of basic items your family may need in the event of an emergency. The supply should include items you may need in the event services we all take for granted, such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones are unavailable for several days or even longer. Your kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages. The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA maintain a disaster preparedness website, which recommends your kit include the following items:

•Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
•Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
•Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
•Flashlight and extra batteries
•First aid kit
•Whistle to signal for help
•Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
•Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
•Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
•Manual can opener for food
•Local maps
•Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

If you have an infant or toddler, the kit should also include baby formula, diapers and wipes. Also, don’t forget the family pets – be sure to include food and water for them as well. The kit should be stored in an easily accessible place, such as a hall closet and all family members should know the location. Since temperatures may fluctuate, keeping the kit in the garage or attic is not recommended.

The kit should also contain a written copy of any household members’ medications, along with an emergency supply. Your physician or insurance company should be able to assist you in obtaining and maintaining enough medication on hand in the event of a disaster. They should be stored in a child proof container in the kit. If you are able to obtain an emergency supply of medications, be sure to establish a plan for rotating your supply so it remains up-to-date.

A similar emergency kit should be kept in your family vehicle when traveling in the event you become stranded. In addition to the items previously listed, that kit should include: jumper cables, cat litter or sand for tire traction, a shovel, ice scraper, warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, extra clothes, blankets or sleeping bags. If you have small children, it is a good idea to include some books and small toys for comfort.

Seeing how first responders were overwhelmed in Texas, just reinforces the need to learn lifesaving skills such as first aid and CPR. Classes are available through local training centers and fire departments, as well as the Red Cross.

Being prepared for a disaster is more than just staying safe inside. Planning ahead can help keep your family, including pets, clean, comfortable, fed and healthy if disaster strikes.

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