Friday, January 26, 2007

Ready, set, go: Preparing for the worst

I might know the most prepared person on the planet. He's the consummate Boy Scout, and boy, he is ready for just about anything.

I'm not going to use his real name because if something horrible does happen — like a natural or manmade disaster or pandemic flu — we'd all show up on his doorstep asking for a spare water filter and some beef jerky. So, as we gather around the proverbial campfire — or what modern people refer to as the blogosphere — let me tell you about my friend Scout.

Scout is not only prepared to care for himself in an emergency, but also for his family of six — an impressive feat. In his house, Scout has a year's worth of food; 55 gallons of water; a barrel to collect rain water; an iodine kit; canned food, pasta, rice, wheat and a can opener; soap; toothpaste; four months worth of propane; matches, candles and batteries; and, of course, board games. Putting this all together was like getting ready to go camping for a year, Scout told me, saying that he prepared under the assumption that no one would be coming to save him and his family if the worst happened. (Any Jericho-watchers in our reading audience?)

Now, I know what you're thinking: How can I store an entire year's worth of food in my basement and still have space for my collection of mint-condition 1977 Star Wars memorabilia? Well, we can't all be like Scout. In terms of preparedness, he's a Jedi and the rest of us are Ewoks living in very unstable grass huts. But we can make a commitment to get organized and get prepared. Even if it means starting with very small steps.

First, contact your local emergency management office or Red Cross and find out what kind of disasters could happen where you live, how to prepare for each disaster and how to receive special assistance for members of your family who are elderly or disabled. Second, sit down with your family and loved ones and talk about why it's important to be prepared. Then, go through an emergency checklist and put together a preparedness kit.

Here are just a few examples of what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends:
* One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days
* At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food
* A battery-powered or hand-crank radio
* Flashlight and extra batteries
* First aid kit
* Whistle to signal for help
* Dust masks to help filter contaminated air
* Local maps

For more detailed instructions and guidelines on how to put together an emergency preparedness kit, view our fact sheet that outlines how to prepare for all-hazards. For additional resources, visit or Additional resources will be available during this year’s National Public Health Week, April 2-8 2007, where our campaign will focus on "Preparedness and Public Health Threats: Addressing the Unique Needs of the Nation's Vulnerable Populations."

And don't forget these words from my friend Scout: It's better to be safe than sorry.


Anonymous said...

One point: Ewoks don't live in huts. Most Ewoks build their homes in the trees themselves, which are accessed via ramps and rope ladders. They are pretty stable.

Anonymous said...

This made me think...and realize how unprepared I am! (If your friend is a Scout, I am definitely a jr. Brownie.) I think the more we can get this out there in people's minds, the better. The obstacle would be not to sound like we are doomsayers or overreacting. Publicizing this in a fun, interesting way helps.

Anonymous said...

This isn't the right place for this comment, but I don't know where else to leave it. What do you think about the new hurricane-style warning for pandemic flu?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your inquiry on the new system. This is a new take on preparedness and warning systems. We will be publishing a blog entry on this soon.