According to Clay County Emergency Management Director Bryan Husband, a disaster of any kind could lead to many people being displaced without utilities, food and water at the same time for long periods of time.
"Even though this country was built on helping your neighbor, we must first be able to help ourselves," Husband said. "As we have dealt with different events over the past few months, we have seen small areas become affected and groups of families in need of assistance. We have a great group of responders that will do almost anything to help. But, if the event is large and also affects that group of volunteers -- because they have to take care of their own families -- who is going to come help and how long before they get here?"
Husband said response time in a disaster situation could take a while.
"Most government agencies respond in two-three days, with district agencies taking 12-24 hours," Husband said. "The bigger the event, the longer it could take to get help to the victims."
According to Husband, being prepared for even the simplest of emergency situations is vital.
"Having a plan, preparing an emergency kit for your family and knowing what to do, not only helps you, but it helps the responders who have to take care of the ones who have not or are unable to prepare," Husband said.
Keeping plans simple, according to officials, is key to being prepared before, during and after a calamity, whether natural or man-made.
To help, the Center for Disease Control and Preparedness and the American Red Cross has created preparedness plans and check lists available on their websites (http://emergency.cdc.gov and www.redcross.org) ranging from natural disasters like flooding, earthquakes, weather-related disasters and volcanoes, and man-made disasters like chemical/radiation emergencies, power outages and various acts of terrorism.
"Water and food are the number one thing everyone will need," Husband said. "A gallon a day per person is necessary. So storage of water is important. Normal gallon jugs (the milk carton type) are OK for the short term storage, but for longer periods, I recommend people look at using something like 2-liter soft drink bottles."
Husband said people should also consider if they need special medications, diapers and wipes for small children, have pets and any other type of specialty needs.
"You know what your family needs," Husband said.
Even if a person is lackadaisical about being prepared, Husband said there is at least one thing everyone can do in advance of an emergency.
"Contact family or friends who live outside of the area, and see if they will come get you if something happens to your home," Husband said. "Tell them you will do the same for them. If you are not prepared for an emergency, you will need to be patient. Everyone will want help, but remember those who are most critical in need will be helped first."
For more information about emergency preparedness, contact Clay County Emergency Management Director Bryan Husband at 448-8400.
Tips for taking cover
Officials urge residents to not gamble with Mother Nature when she gets her dander up.
In the event of eminent strong storms, residents are urged to take cover until the threat is over.
If at home or inside a small building
* Go to the basement or an interior room without any windows on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom,
* Rooms under stairwells also offer protection from dangerous weather, and
* Use overcoats, blankets or a mattress for protection against flying debris,
If in a car or mobile home, people should leave the area immediately and go to a substantial structure or shelter. If no structure is nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch and use a coat or your hands to cover your head.
Having some basic supplies on hand is also vital during an emergency situation. Families need to plan on storing enough for three days in case of evacuation, or two weeks if staying at home, including:
* Water -- one gallon per person, per day,
* Food -- nonperishable, easy to prepare items,
* Flashlight, battery powered and a hand crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) with extra batteries,
* First-Aid kit, medications (sevenday supply) and a multipurpose tool kit,
* Sanitation and personal hygiene items,
* Copies of personal documents (pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, banking information, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) and family and emergency contact information,
* Emergency blankets, household supplies and extra clothing,
* Cell phone with chargers,
* Extra cash,
* Map(s) of the area, and
* Don't forget about those items necessary for pets.