This past year Mother Nature taught humanity around the world a cruel reality of life. Natural disasters can strike anywhere, anytime with a vengeance; destroying cities, forever altering lives and leaving victims praying in their wake.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) and the Clay County Emergency Management Agency (CCEMA) are working together to inform the public of their need for individual and family disaster preparation planning.
CCEMA Director Bryan Husband thinks people should consider creating a disaster/emergency kit as a choice for their New Year's resolution.
"With everything that has happened during the past year, I'm sure that someone is warning us to be prepared for whatever disaster lies ahead," he said. "Families need to take disaster preparedness serious, especially in Indiana."
With ever-changing weather patterns, Husband says that being prepared in Indiana should be a top priority for every citizen.
"Tornadoes, like the ones that struck southern Indiana last November, are a main reason families should prepare a disaster kit," he said. "The people along the coastline of Louisiana knew that Hurricane Katrina was coming and had several days to prepare. Here in Indiana, a warning can be issued by the National Weather Service, tornado warning sirens sound off in the city and your home can be gone a few minutes later. For people living in the country there's even less of a warning."
Ice storms, snow, severe thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes rip through the state annually, leaving people caught in the paths of natures fury at a minimum without power and at a worst case scenario needing emergency assistance.
"We take so much for granted that when utilities are lost, people just don't know what to do," he said. "It's a tough thing to say, but people really need to be able to take care of themselves when a disaster strikes or an emergency happens."
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) communities need to be able to use their own resources for at least three days as the disaster is assessed and a request for state and federal assistance is filed.
"In a disaster situation, everyone needs help," Husband said about the tough job emergency workers face when deciding what area to go to and whose need is the most pressing. "Help goes to the most urgent cases first, like handicapped individuals and the elderly. People need to be prepared to wait in line for assistance during a crisis."
Husband said creating and implementing a plan of action helps to ease the stress that can occur during any type of emergency situation throughout the year. Being prepared, people will have supplies on hand "to carry them through till helps arrives. They'll know who to call and where to go for help."
In an IDHS press release this week, Executive Director J. Eric Dietz urged Hoosiers to get serious about being prepared for emergencies.
"We cannot stop the occurrence of some of these events but we can take steps to lessen the impact," he wrote. "Every citizen must take it upon themselves to ready their families, homes, businesses, communities and schools for any disaster, natural or human caused."
Sidebar: According to FEMA, a disaster/emergency kit is a collection of basic items needed by an individual or family after a disaster. The kits should be stored in a water-proof container(s) close to the home's exit and maintained throughout the year.
Supplies for a home disaster/emergency kit:
A three-day supply of nonperishable food with a can opener and at least a gallon of water per person, per day.
A battery-powered radio or television, flashlight, extra batteries and matches in a waterproof container.
A first-aid manual and supplies along with hygiene items such as hand sanitizer, moist towelettes and toilet paper.
Copies of identification, credit cards and important medical/insurance documentation, cash, clothing, blankets and cooking utensils.
Unique items to meet family needs such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solution, hearing aid batteries, items for infants (such as formula, diapers, bottles and pacifiers), tools, pet supplies and a map of the area, among other items. A whistle is also recommended to call for assistance.
Supplies for a vehicle disaster/emergency kit:
A flashlight, extra batteries, maps and a white distress flag.
A first-aid kit and manual.
Tire repair kit, jumper cables, air pump and flares.
Bottled water and non-perishable foods such as granola bars.
Winter supplies include: a blanket, hat, mittens, shovel, sand or cat litter, tire chains, ice scraper and an orange distress flag to be seen in the snow.
Summer supplies include: sunscreen lotion of SPF 15 or greater and a shading item like an umbrella or a wide brimmed hat are recommended.
Officials also recommend that people consider having emergency supplies kit at their place of employment because no one knows when a disaster or emergency will strike.
For more information about how to prepare and implement an emergency/disaster kit, contact FEMA directly at 1-800-480-2520 or log onto their website at www.fema.gov. People can also contact the Clay County Emergency Management office at 448-8400