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Terrorism and Other Public Health Threats - Getting Organized

A little organization can go a long way towards helping you feel ready to handle the unexpected. Having an emergency plan and an emergency supplies kit for your household can help you and your family be better prepared for any kind of disaster.

Developing an emergency plan

Putting together an emergency plan is easy:

  • Choose a friend or relative as a contact person for family members to call if they are separated during a disaster. It is best to choose an out-of-state contact. Make sure every member of your household has the contact's phone number. Email may also be a good way to get in touch.
  • Pick a place to meet outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home. Make sure every member of your household has the address and phone number. (Also designate a place to meet just outside your home—a neighbor's front yard, for instance—in case there is a fire in your home.)
  • Write down where and how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity to the house. Make sure you have any special tools this requires, such as a T-wrench for the water line.
  • Discuss what you would do if you had to leave your home and the area. Include your pets in your plans. Most emergency shelters and health facilities will not accept animals.
  • Keep important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, insurance forms, telephone numbers you might need, and credit card information together and readily available in case you need to quickly evacuate your home.

You may have other things that you want to include, especially if you have children in school or if anyone in your household has special needs. Review your plan yearly, and make sure that phone numbers, email addresses, and other items are still current.

Assembling an emergency supplies kit

The essentials of an emergency kit are the same no matter what the situation: food and water, first aid supplies and medicines, blankets and clothing, special-needs items (such as baby formula), and certain tools and household items, including a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries. You can also use a radio or flashlight that is powered by a hand crank and so does not need batteries.

Visit the American Red Cross's website at www.redcross.org for a checklist to use as you gather supplies. Store everything in one place, preferably a cool, dark location. Consider putting together a smaller version of your emergency kit that you could take if you had to leave home or shelter in place.

After you've assembled your emergency supplies, remember to check and replace them periodically:

  • Bottled water that has remained sealed and unopened needs to be replaced once a year. Water in containers that you filled yourself needs to be replaced every 6 months.
  • Follow the Red Cross's guidelines (www.redcross.org) on how often to replace food supplies. Even "nonperishable" items may need to be replaced.
  • Remember that both nonprescription and prescription medicines have expiration dates.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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