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Is everyone in your home ready to go it alone for three days after a natural disaster?
“It’s critical to be able to take care of yourself, your family and your pets for the first 72 hours of a disaster,” said Bill Earley, CEO of American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties. “That could be how long it takes for first responders to get to you should a major disaster hit our region.”
But only 7 percent of households in San Diego County are prepared, according to Red Cross research. With some help from Competitive Edge, a public polling research company, the Red Cross developed a new metric called the Emergency Preparedness Index (EPI) to measure the amount of preparedness a household has instead of just saying it is or isn’t prepared.
“The EPI is important because it showed us how truly unprepared people are in San Diego County,” Red Cross communications director Courtney Pendleton said. “Why should people care? They should be taking the steps now to be better prepared for the next disaster or emergency that hits our region.”
The alarming 7 percent number has led the organization to refocus its efforts on Prepare San Diego, an initiative created to encourage emergency preparation in the wake of the 2007 wildfires.
“Education is always key,” Earley said. “Many people realize they should be ready for a disaster, but life gets in the way. It’s something we all put off.”
By 2017, the Red Cross wants the county’s homes and businesses to launch one million acts of preparation.
Here are three ways you can ensure you’re prepared for an emergency or disaster:
Make a Plan
Earley says if you have to choose a single emergency preparation step, it’s this: Make a plan with your family about what to do in case of a disaster.
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How have you prepared for an emergency or disaster?
It’s crucial to plan where you will gather and how you will get information to each other.
“We don’t know when disasters will happen. You could be together at home, so make an evacuation plan for there,” Earley said. “What if you’re at work or school? How will you meet back up? Whom will you call from outside the area to verify you’re safe and OK if calls aren’t going through here?”
Everybody in your household should know where the emergency supplies are stored in case they’re needed. The Red Cross suggests printing a copy of this information for everyone in the house. You can also launch a drill of the evacuation plan ever year.
Get a Kit
Being prepared means having the right supplies when a disaster strikes. Here’s a list of the supplies you should have in your emergency preparation kit:
• Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply if you are evacuated, 2-week supply for your home)
• Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply if you are evacuated, 2-week supply for home)
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
• Extra batteries
• First-aid kit
• Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
• Multi-purpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items
• Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
• Cell phones with chargers
• Family and emergency contact information
• Extra cash
• Emergency blanket
• Map(s) of the area
Remember to pack supplies for your children (bring something to entertain and comfort the little ones like a favorite toy or blanket) and for your pet (leash, food bowl, food and a toy).
Red Cross recommends you check your kit and change the supplies as needed every six months.
Learn about the types of disasters that might hit the area where you live and consider taking Red Cross safety classes. They offer training in a variety of skills like CPR/first aid, first aid for pets, wilderness first aid and babysitting.
You can also train to become a Red Cross volunteer. You’ll learn how to respond and help during emergencies and disasters. Visit redcross.org/sandiego to find out how to volunteer.
Tell the Red Cross how you are preparing for disaster by visiting preparesandiego.org.