Planning ahead for unpredictable weather

17 years ago

To the editor:
The storms this past weekend caught a lot of people off guard. Many people throughout Aroostook County experienced power outages and major inconveniences for 24 hours or longer.  Although it was not necessary to open shelters, disaster volunteers for the Aroostook County Branch of the American Red Cross – Pine Tree Chapter were on 48 hour standby this weekend to respond to mass sheltering needs or multiple house fires caused by lightning, and working collaboratively with Aroostook County Emergency Management Agency, first responders, and hospitals in communicating local emergency awareness.
In today’s climate, it is more important than ever that all of us be prepared for possible emergencies. Natural or other disasters can strike suddenly, at any time — just as the severe thunderstorms and tornados did this past weekend. It is important for each individual, family, and business to be prepared. There are steps everyone can take to be ready for an emergency.
MAKE A PLAN: Planning ahead is the first step to a calmer and more assured disaster response. Discuss with your family the disasters that can happen where you live. Establish responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team. Designate alternates in case someone is absent. Choose two places to meet after a disaster: right outside your home in case of a fire—or outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood. Learn how and when to turn off utilities such as electricity, water, and gas. Ask your local fire department to show you how to store and use a fire extinguisher. Practice evacuating your home twice a year.
BUILD A KIT: What you have on hand when a disaster happens can make a big difference. Plan to store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three days. The following items will help you build your kit:
Water: Have at least one gallon of water per person per day.
Food: Pack non-perishable, high-protein items such as energy bars, ready to eat soup, peanut butter, etc. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparing, cooking and little or no water.
Flashlight: Include extra batteries.
First Aid Kit: Pack a reference guide.
Medications: Don’t forget prescription and non-prescription items.
Battery-operated radio: Include extra batteries.
Tools: Assemble a manual can opener, wrench, screwdriver, hammer, pliers, knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and garbage bags.
Clothing: Provide a change of clothing for each person including sturdy shoes and gloves.
Personal items: Eyeglasses, contact lenses/solution, copies of important papers, contact information, sanitary supplies and comfort items.
Pet supplies: Include food, water, leash, litter box supplies, tags, medications and vaccination information.
Map: Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area.
GET TRAINED: Learning simple first aid techniques can give you the skills and confidence to help anyone in your home, your neighborhood, and work. When a major disaster occurs, your community can change in an instant. Loved ones can be hurt and emergency response can be delayed. Make sure that at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR and in how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Check the scene for safety and the victim for life-threatening conditions. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number and request professional assistance. Care for the victim if you can reach the person safely
BE INFORMED: Know what may happen and how you can help. Learn what disasters or emergencies may occur in your area. Identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster and how you will get information whether through local radio, TV, or NOAA weather radio stations/channels. When a weather warning is given, take action!
VOLUNTEER: There are so many needs and so many ways to serve. Red Cross volunteers range from young people to senior citizens who help people in emergencies, teach health & safety classes, organize blood drives, help to connect the armed forces with their families, assist in fundraising, and dozens of other ways to ensure the Red Cross mission is carried out each day. Contact your local Red Cross office at 762-5671 and ask how you can help.
Join other members of your community through the Red Cross in taking these first steps. You never know how many people your actions will affect, how many lives you might change. When we all come together — we become part of something bigger than us all!

Judy Demerchant
lead disaster volunteer
Aroostook County Branch
American Red Cross