by David Annis, Denton County Extension Agent
Are you prepared for a disaster? No, I am not talking about an asteroid striking earth, end-of-life-as-we-know-it disaster. I am talking about being prepared around your house, farm, ranch, or business for disasters that can and do occur in Texas such as floods or tornadoes. This means having a plan and supplies in place.
You already know that if a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you. However, it is important that you can take care of yourself and family immediately after a disaster. Although we cannot prevent disasters, we can reduce the risk of injury and even death by becoming informed and thinking through what could happen that would affect our family and our businesses.
A first step for disaster preparedness is to learn about what could happen and how to respond. Natural disasters can take the shape of drought, fire, floods, ice storms, tornadoes and while not common, disease epidemics. Accidental disasters can be explosions, equipment failure, hazardous material incidents, house hold chemical emergencies and nuclear power plant emergencies (yes, there is a nuclear power plant southwest of Fort Worth). Let us not forget the dangers of terrorism as well. Regardless of the disaster, we are facing there are ways that we can prepare.
Before you say, “Move over, Bear Gryllis, there’s a new “prepper/survivalist” in town,” don’t get too carried away. There is still work to be done. You can help protect your family by making a family disaster kit and by creating a family disaster plan for your household. You and your family need to be able to take care of yourselves without outside help for at least three days. As you are looking for items to go into your kit, do not forget some basic tools, hygiene items and most importantly food and water! Choose food items that can be eaten either warm or cold. Items that are nutritious and easy to prepare will help keep your morale high as well. Do not forget to store enough water back for three days as well. A good rule of thumb is to stock a gallon of water per person, per day. Depending on how you either use or conserve water, your “mileage” can vary.
When we have got the disaster kit taken care of, now we need to do the hard part. Take the time to plan escape routes and how you would communicate with your family in an emergency. (I told my daughter to imagine her cell phone would not work. She said that the world would end at that point.) Know where your utility shut offs are and how to turn off water, electric and/or the natural gas. Do you have the tools you need to turn off the utilities? Do not turn the utilities on again until you have the utility company check out the house/business. Another item to consider is where you want to keep copies of your important documents. Find a secure place to keep copies of your insurance and vital records. It is also a good idea to put an inventory of the home/business in there as well!
Finally, you need to consider the medicines that you or a family member will need? What about your pet(s) or livestock? You will may to stock some food for them as well. If your pet has medications to take, consider putting some in your kit for them. (I had an aunt, with a diabetic cat, who always made sure she had plenty of medication to give him.)
I have a friend on another fire department who is “prepping” for the worst all the time! He says that people are not realistic about their supplies they put back. He recommends living for three days only out of the supplies you have on hand. No cheating! This will allow you to evaluate how good of a job you did on selecting your supplies. Think of this as a trial run. One of the things he notices is that people always forget the toilet paper!
This article just scratches the surface on preparing for disasters. For more information, go to the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) at http://texashelp.tamu.edu or call our office at 940.349.2882.