Minnesotans need to be ready for disasters

Minnesotans need to be ready for an emergency, state officials say, in case they need to endure a disaster on their own.

The recommendation is to have enough supplies at home to survive at least three days.

“They need to take care of themselves,” said Kris Eide, state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division director. “They need to be resilient. They are the first responder. The firefighter is not the first responder, they are.”

State and federal officials say the public needs to prepare now in case of an emergency that could last days, or longer.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, American leaders have emphasized being prepared.

“We have had an increased emphasis on personal and family preparedness,” said Jane Braun, the Minnesota Health Department’s emergency preparedness director. “Those who can help themselves can free up the responders to help people who cannot help themselves.”

It doesn’t take much preparation, Braun said.

“If you have half a tank of gas, some cash, your own clothes and your own prescription medication you have an awful lot more chances than a person who gets a knock on the door and someone ‘says get out now,’” she said.

Preparation is vital, Eide and Braun said.

“They need to make sure they can communicate with their own family,” Eide said.

Experts suggest that each family should have a plan for what to do in an emergency.

For instance, a family should establish an out-of-town contact who might not be involved in an emergency as a contact person. And family members need to know how to contact each other.

“Where do you assemble?” Braun said is one question that needs to be answered in advance. “Where will children meet you if they evacuate school?”

As many found out during last month’s East Coast earthquake and hurricane, text messages and emails often are easier to transmit than making voice calls during heavy call times such as just after a disaster. So disaster experts suggest that everyone who has a mobile device capable of texting or going onto the Internet know how to do that.

The federal Homeland Security Department recommends what to include in a basic emergency supply kit:

– Water, one gallon per person per day.

– Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.

– Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.

– Flashlight and extra batteries,

– First aid kit.

– Whistle to signal for help.

– Dust mask and duct tape to seal windows and doors.

– Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

– Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

– Can opener.

– Mobile telephones with chargers.

– Prescription medications and glasses.

– Infant formula and diapers.

– Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof container.

– Cash.

– Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.

– Complete change of clothing.

– Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper (when diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant and in an emergency it can treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water).

– Fire extinguisher

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Extensive information on preparing for a disaster is at www.ready.gov.

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