May Focus: Important Documents
Documents that prove identity, health, and finances are often not thought of as essential items in a disaster preparedness kit. However, these documents are critical in trying to return to normal following a disaster. Having quick access to important documents helped residents who evacuated their homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to be able to quickly and easily register for benefits and take advantage of insurance coverage for mortgage payments while they were homeless.
Family Documents: The ability to prove your identity is one of the single most important things anyone should be able to do following a disaster. Not having proper identification can delay necessary assistance for an undetermined about of time. Having the following documents at hand can ease this burden:
• Driver’s licenses/Passports
• Social Security Cards
• Citizenship papers
• Birth certificates/Adoption papers
• Marriage license/divorce decrees/child custody papers
• Current military ID/military discharge
Medical Information: If you need medical attention following an emergency or disaster, it is not likely that your regular doctor will be taking care of your needs. You also may not be able to communicate your medical history to those caring for you. Ensuring you have the following information for you and your family will assist those caring for you, if required:
• Immunization records
• Prescription information (drug name and dosage)
• Pertinent medical history such as medication allergies, surgeries, and medical conditions
• Health insurance identification cards
• Physician names and phone numbers
• Powers-of-attorney for health care and living will(s).
Financial Documents: In order to obtain money from your bank accounts or credit cards you will need to have proof of your finances with that institution. Keeping copies of the following documents in your disaster preparedness kit will help:
- A copy of last year’s tax return. This will assist in proving your income should you need to do so.
- Account numbers for all your bank accounts. Copies of your credit and debit card statements are also helpful to have so you can access your money following a disaster.
- Copies of all investments, including stock and bond certificates and retirement accounts. Insurance policies: including homeowners, renters, auto, life, health, disability, long-term care, flood, and earthquake insurance. At a minimum, you should have the name of the insurance company, contact information and your policy number for each of your insurance policies.
- Estate planning documents: wills, trusts, funeral instructions, powers-of-attorney, attorney names and phone numbers.
- Property records: Real estate deeds of trust and mortgage documents (at least the two-page settlement statement provided by the title company showing the actual cost of the house and purchase expenses); rental agreement or lease; auto/boat/RV registration and titles; video, photos or a list of household inventory.
- Photos or video of all valuable to be able to document insurance claims.
Don’t forget your pets: Pet medical and vaccination records, current photos and microchip numbers can help ensure you are reunited with your pet following a disaster.
Storage: Make copies of documents or have them scanned and saved in electronic format. Keep them in a sealed, waterproof pouch in your emergency kit or in a small fireproof and waterproof safe that you can easily take with you in the event of an emergency.
Storing documents in an off-site location, like a security deposit box is also an option. However, access to these documents may be delayed following a disaster.
Ready access to important documentation will ease the burden of obtaining assistance and resuming a sense of normalcy following a disaster. The cost of collecting and storing these documents depends primarily on your method of storage, which can be adjusted to fit within your budget. There are lots of options. I purchased a document bag on Amazon for around $17.00: http://a.co/d/culk3ve
April Focus: Create a 3-Day Kit
So far this year, the Prepare in a Year series has covered creating an emergency plan, establishing an out-of-area contact and storing enough water for an entire family. The ultimate goal is to be ready for two full weeks, but for now April is dedicated to assembling enough supplies to sustain a family for three days.
During a disaster it is possible to have to leave in a moment’s notice. Having supplies pre-assembled to keep a family safe and comfortable is vital. A three-day kit is not going to include every item possibly needed during an emergency. Be sure to make your kit manageable. It is not required to go out and buy all new supplies either! Shop your home first to assess what you need, then make a list of items to gather throughout the year. Preparing for disasters is a long-term goal.
Start with a storage container, which needs to be portable enough to grab and go. A backpack is great; family members can customize one to meet their needs. A backpack has limited space, so be sure to add only the essentials.
Water: As discussed in March, one gallon per person per day is recommended, but can become very heavy to carry. Think about storing your water near your kit and adding 12-ounce water bottles to your pack. A water filtration system is another option but will be an additional cost.
Food: Add items that do not require water or cooking. Non-perishable canned food that are ready to eat such as meats, vegetables and fruits are ideal (remember to add a can opener). Canned food will add weight to your pack so balance with high protein dry goods like granola and protein bars. “Comfort” foods like cookies and hard candies will add a sense of normalcy during a stressful time. Add utensils and pay attention to serving sizes and calories. Remember, these are survival items; you will not get to eat until you are stuffed! Also, do not forget your pets and their needs!
First Aid Supplies: In addition to the standard first aid items (bandages, tape, antiseptic, antibiotic cream, scissors, tweezers, non-latex gloves, aspirin and non-aspirin medication), add items to address your family’s specific needs such as: medications, sanitary pads or eyeglasses. Other items that will be useful (if space allows) are needle and thread, sunscreen, safety pins, insect repellent, instant cold packs and plastic bags. The Red Cross site has a great list: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/anatomy-of-a-first-aid-kit.html
Tools & Supplies: Having a flashlight with extra batteries is essential. A headlamp to be hands free is even better! Add a battery-operated or hand crank radio, preferably a NOAA Weather radio so you can receive verified emergency information. Other supplies to add to your three-day kit are pocketknife, duct tape, lighter, whistle, toilet paper and other hygiene items and pet supplies. Add at least one complete change of clothing (consider layers for inclement weather). If space allows, add games and books for entertainment.
Documents: Include your emergency plan! Other important documents include copies of insurance policies, inventories, account information, family records and photos and local maps. May’s Prepare in a Year post will cover documentation in more depth, so stay tuned!
March Focus: Water Storage
Clean water is essential for life, both for hydration and to prevent the spread of disease. Healthcare providers who assisted with disaster efforts in Puerto Rico treated multiple conditions related to contaminated water, including vomiting, diarrhea, pink eye and leptospirosis. Clean water storage is a top priority in disaster preparedness. This month GCA will assist members in learning about water storage preparation.
Each person in a household requires one gallon of water per day for drinking and sanitation. FEMA recommends storing enough water for each member of a household for two weeks. While specialized barrels to store large amounts of water and tools to maintain water purity are available, it is not the only method in which you can store water.
Water can be stored in screw-top plastic bottles, such as a two-liter soda bottle, which are less likely to break or leak. Look for the triangular recycling symbol with a number “1”, as those are the best for water storage. Plastic milk and juice containers are not recommended, as they are difficult to sanitize, and their plastic can become fragile and brittle over time. To sanitize a two-liter soda bottle, rinse it out with one teaspoon on non-chlorine bleach and one quart of water. Then fill the bottle with clean water and screw the lid on tightly. Label the bottle “drinking water”, put a date on it and store it in a cool, dark place. Empty, sanitize, and refill the bottle every six months to ensure the water remains clean. Bottled water may also be purchased and used for storage. While the FDA does not require expiration dates to be printed on bottled water, it is recommended it be consumed within a two-year period. Once the bottled water has been opened, there is the potential for bacteria and algae to develop.
Using water of questionable purity: It may be necessary to use water of questionable purity. This includes rainwater, water from streams, rivers, creeks, ponds, lakes, and potentially flood water. These sources of water can contain various contaminates that could cause illness. Before using water from these sources, it will be necessary to sanitize this water.
The first step in sanitizing water will be to filter out as many solids as possible. This can be done using coffee filters, several layers of paper towels, or a clean cloth. Portable water filters can also be used. If purchasing a portable water filter, choose one with a filter pore size small enough to remove both bacteria and parasites. Most portable water filters do not remove viruses. Carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the water filter intended to be used.
Sanitizing water by boiling: After filtering the water, bring water to a rolling boil for one minute and allow it to cool naturally. Boiling water is the surest method to kill many disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria and parasites.
Sanitizing water by using bleach: For each gallon of filtered water, add eight drops of unscented chlorine bleach and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. If the faint scent of bleach is present after 30 minutes, the water is good to use. If bleach is not detected, add eight more drops of bleach and let it stand for another 15-30 minutes. If a faint scent of bleach is still not detected, the water cannot be used for drinking. .
Boiling water and using bleach will kill most viruses and bacteria but it will not remove metals, salts or chemicals, so the water may still have a funny taste. The taste may be improved by pouring it from one container to another and allowing it to stand for a few hours or by adding a pinch of salt for each quart of water. Plan for how to boil water if there were no power.
Hidden sources of water in your home: Turning off the main water valve does two things: It prevents contaminated water from entering the lines in a home, and it keeps gravity from draining water out of the home’s lines if there is a break in an outside pipe. To turn off the water, locate the main shut-off valve and turn the knob or handle clockwise until it is completely closed. A wrench may be needed to do this. Some older homes may also have a shut-off inside, located in the basement or garage. Water heaters can provide several gallons of drinking water obtained by following these steps:
- Determine whether it is an electric or gas-powered water heater. This will determine how to turn off the source that makes the water hot. If it is electric, turn off the circuit breaker for the water heater. If it is gas, close the gas valve.
- Turn off the water intake valve.
- Attach a short hose to the valve at the bottom of the tank to assist with draining. A threefoot length garden hose or washing machine supple hose can be used.
- Turn on a hot water faucet in the house to let air into the system.
- Drain water from the hot water heater. Hearing a sucking sound in the pipes is likely to occur. Sediment will also likely be in the water that is drained. Use the methods described earlier to clear the water of sediments after allowing them to settle to the bottom of the water.
- Refill the tank before turning the electricity or gas back on. REMEMBER, a professional MUST turn the gas back on after it has been turned it off for safety reasons.
Tip: Be sure you protect this water source by securing your water heater to the wall studs. Learn how at:
Water standing in the pipes of a house is also available for use. To collect this water, turn on a faucet at the highest level of the home to allow air in the lines. A small amount of water will trickle out. Water can then be collected from a faucet at the lowest level of the home. Water can also be obtained by melting ice cubes, from canned fruit and vegetable liquids, and from toilet tanks, if toilet cleansers have not been placed in them.
Unsafe Water Sources:
- Radiators & Toilet bowls
- Hot water boilers (part of a home heating and not drinking water system)
- Water beds (fungicides in the water and chemicals in the vinyl case make it unsafe)
- Swimming pools or spas (due to the chemicals added)
- Any water that has an unusual odor or color, or that you know, or suspect might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals. Water contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals CANNOT be made safe for drinking by boiling or disinfection.
January: Make your Plan
The task for the month of January is to create your emergency action plan. What is the importance of having a plan? The fact that developing and practicing an emergency action plan can save countless lives throughout the community during an emergency or disaster.
STAY INFORMED: The first step in developing your emergency action plan is to become aware of what potential emergency or disasters can occur in your area, such as earthquakes, power outages, train derailments and volcanoes. One way to stay informed is to sign up for Mason County Alerts. This is a free service which sends notifications about emergencies occurring in your area and other important community news. Alerts include information on severe weather, flooding, unexpected road closures, missing persons and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods. You can receive these alerts in the manner most convenient for you, whether that be at your home, business, via text messages or email, or all of the above. This tool will help keep you informed with vetted and reliable information in addition to any information you hear on the radio, television or social media. Sign up for Mason County Alerts with this link – it only takes a minute:
FOCUS ON FAMILY: The second step in developing your emergency action plan is to determine the specific needs of those in your household. This will enable you to prepare and accommodate for any special needs that are required. These needs may include having enough diapers and formula available for infants, or having food, leashes, kennels for pets, and any necessary accommodations for disabled family members or those who require specific medications or medical care.
DEVELOP YOUR PLAN: Now that you have collected this information, you are ready to develop your emergency action plan. Review the layout of your house and determine two ways to exit each room in the event of an emergency. You will also need to pick two meeting locations outside of your home. The first location should be close to your house, such as by the mailbox or the large tree across the street. The second location should be outside of your neighborhood in case it is not safe to be near your home.
We have put an emergency plan template on the GCA website to make this easier for you. Download the template and get started! Emergency Plan Template
So far, no money has been spent on your “Prepare in a Year” plan. Be sure to develop and practice your plan with each member of your household. Knowledge and practice help muscle memory engage during an emergency or disaster when denial, panic or paralysis can set in. You can download the "Prepare in a Year" document from this link: Download the Brochure
In February, the focus will be on "Designating an out-of-area contact".
Disaster Preparedness: Our CERT Training Recap
Eighteen local residents participated in a 20-hour Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) disaster preparedness training sponsored by Mason County Department of Emergency Management. The training was held at the Horton Community Center across two weekends: October 26 & 27 and November 2 & 3rd.
Through classroom sessions and “hands-on” exercises, CERT members are trained to assist those in their neighborhood and/or workplace following a disaster, at a time when professional emergency responders may not be immediately available. The participants learned CERT organization and psychology, disaster preparedness, light search and rescue techniques, fire safety and how to provide basic medical assistance.
Upon completion of the CERT Program, members have the option of being assigned to teams based on their residential or workplace locations. “If an emergency occurs, we need to be prepared to take care of our families and neighbors before the real first responders can get here – which may take a very long time,” said participant and Grapeview resident Mike Blaisdell. “This training is a great way to help people feel more comfortable and helps them know what to do to keep their families safe and prepared,” he said.
The CERT course will benefit any citizen who takes it. The training will better prepare you to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster. Additionally, if our community wants to supplement its response capability after a disaster, residents can be recruited and trained as neighborhood teams that, in essence, will be auxiliary responders. These groups can provide immediate assistance to victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers who have not had the training, and collect disaster intelligence that will assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster.
If you are interested in participating in a CERT course, please email Leslie Blaisdell at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d like to set up another local session in 2019!
"CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. It is a realistic approach to disaster situations where the actions of average citizens can make a positive difference. Regardless of personal limitations, there is a role for everyone in CERT".
In the event of a major emergency or disaster, many of the resources normally available to those of us who live and work in Western Washington State may become inaccessible and unavailable. Public services may be interrupted; communications, utilities, and commodity delivery systems (food, water, and medicines) could be disrupted. Most importantly, if a major disaster occurs, the fire department, paramedics, and police…WILL NOT COME! They will be deployed FIRST to major incidents such as collapsed buildings. That is why you constantly hear that "You MUST be prepared to take care of yourself."
What is CERT? The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program is an all-risk, all-hazard training. This valuable course is designed to help you protect yourself, your family, your neighbors and your neighborhood in an emergency. If a major earthquake (or any disaster) hits, do you …
- have enough supplies for a minimum of 72 hours up to an entire month for all family members, including pets?
- know how to turn off the gas?
- know how to safely turn off the power?
- know how to apply first aid?
- have enough water for your family and your pets?
- have provisions for living outside your home for a length of time if the structure is compromised?
Being aware of the hazards in our area will help you understand the importance of everyone being able to provide for their own personal needs for at least seventy-two hours and possibly much longer. CERT classes teach community volunteers important and valuable emergency response skills and actions that will help safeguard and protect themselves, family members, neighbors and coworkers.
When you are trained, you are far more equipped to deal with your circumstances without needing aid from outside sources. CERT members are trained in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. You will learn how to prepare for emergencies; what supplies you should NOW have in your house, how much food, how much water but most importantly, how to protect your family in an emergency!
CERT Participants Learn How To:
- Identify and anticipate hazards
- Extinguish small fires
- Recognize and treat life-threatening conditions
- Triage patient care activities
- Conduct light search and rescue
- Help reduce survivor and team stress
- Organize emergency response volunteers
- Identify and respond to threats of terrorism
- Assist first-responders by recording and reporting situation information
- Preparing disaster supply kits