Over the years, I’ve watched major disasters unfold in the news. While I was glued to the TV, radio, and internet waiting for updates and trying to figure out what I could do to help those who lived so far away; in the back of my mind I was always grateful. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was grateful that I didn’t live in a place that has regular incidents of hurricanes, tornado’s, or earthquakes. Part of me just couldn’t fathom why people would live in a place that was so dangerous.
At a recent disaster preparedness training put on by the Red Cross at an AmeriCorps event, I was reminded how wrong my thinking really was. Flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, drought, avalanches, severe storms, tsunamis, flu outbreaks, dam failures, nuclear plant failures- as for disasters, Washington is one of the few states that is pretty much susceptible to them all.
Once the reality that we actually live in a very dangerous place sunk in, the training reminded me that there are some very simple (and inexpensive) steps we can take to prepare ourselves. While there was a lot of really useful information at the training (and I highly encourage you to visit Red Cross Washington<http://www.redcrosswashington.org/index.htm> for more information), here are the top 10 CHEAP things I learned that you can do to prepare yourself for a disaster.
1. Disasters can, will, and do happen in Washington. Obviously some areas of Washington are more susceptible to certain disasters than others. Take some time to learn what disasters could potentially happen in your area.
2. Meet your neighbors. Such an easy thing to do and yet for many people such an easy thing not to do. Like many of my friends, I rely on Metro to get around- which means none of us have cars. In an emergency, is their a neighbor that has a car that would be willing to let you ride along? Is there someone to knock on your door if you live alone? Is there someone in your neighborhood that might need some extra assistance in the event of an emergency? Get out and meet the people, now.
3. Do you stand in a doorway or get under a table in an earthquake? (hint: drop/cover/hold)
4. A pillowcase can be very handy in an emergency. To carry that photo album, ferret, kitten, small dog, bird, snake, that you just can’t leave behind. Often times people don’t want to leave their homes because they don’t want to leave behind something- often their pets. If you have a pet, think about how you can safely take your animal with you.
5. Most things you would need for a disaster preparedness kit are already in your home. Don’t be discouraged by the long list of suggested items to be included, instead decided which items make the most sense for you.
6. That drinking water stored in my laundry room has got to go. Don’t get me wrong, saving drinking water is a key part of disaster preparedness, but you should change it every six months. (Just add it to your list of things to do for daylight savings.)
7. Know where the elusive pay phones are in your area. Chances are that in an emergency you may not be able to use your cell phone. Know where the alternative options are.
8. Have an out of area contact. Designate one person you can call to let know you are OK in the event of a disaster. This person then can be the one that the rest of your family can call incessantly to make sure you are OK. This helps keep local phone lines open, and allows you to get on with the business of surviving or helping others to survive.
9. Make copies of important documents such as your passport or driver’s license, your social security card, or legal documents you might need in a disaster- add them to your kit.
10. Make sure you have some comfort items in your disaster kit. A picture of a loved one, a chocolate bar, some granola, a role of quarters, a pair of SmartWool, sunscreen, there must be some seemingly frivolous item that will make all the difference to YOU in the event of a disaster.
Bonus! 11. Zombie Squad is not only protecting our neighborhoods against the next zombie invasion (a very important deed), but they are working to help educate themselves and their communities about disaster preparedness. <http://zombiehunters.org>