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Natural disasters are having a blockbuster season, dominating headlines across the country.

The most powerful hurricane to hit the Hawaiian islands in a century ripped roofs off buildings and sent tourists scurrying to shelters Friday and Saturday.Just a month ago, a hurricane named Andrew upstaged politicians in the news as it roared through the Bahamas, south Florida and Louisiana.

And last week, Utah media reported the earthquake that rattled the southwestern corner of the state, destroying homes, breaking waterlines and knocking out electrical power.

While citizens may debate how quickly government should react in times on natural disaster, individuals should focus attention on their own preparedness in emergencies, advises Dr. Harry Gibbons, director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department.

"There is only so much that government can do," Gibbons warns."In case of a major earthquake, Utahns could not depend on government to provide clean water and food immediately. There is absolutely no way that relief or government agencies will ever be able to take care of everyone."

People should have emergency survival kits to provide what they would need for at least 72 hours, said Gibbons.

In Florida, lack of clean water has been the most threatening health problem. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes result in a contaminated water supply for days.

Storing water is easy and inexpensive, said Gibbons. He recommends filling empty plastic liter pop bottles with water, adding 1/8 teaspoon of Clorox to ensure sanitation.

The Department of Civil Defense reports that a quart of water will sustain life, but people would be much more comfortable - especially in warm weather - with an allowance of a gallon per day. An additional one-half to one gallon per day is recommended for washing.

An effective way to store water is to use clean canning jars. Fill the jars with water, leaving one inch of head space at the top of the jars. Process the water in a boiling water bath. Quart jars should be processed 20 minutes, two quart jars for 25 minutes.

Stored water should be replaced every year, said Gibbons.

A first-aid kit should be readily available in an emergency, said Gibbons. He recommends including potassium iodine tablets that are thyroid-blocking agents. In case of nuclear fallout, these tablets can be effective in protecting against thyroid cancer.

"I'm not a doomsayer, but until Saddam Hussein and other leaders who threaten nuclear action are out of business, we should be prepared," said Gibbons. "A tablet can go a long way in in protecting us."

Also, it's a good idea to keep a flashlight with charged batteries and a pair of shoes by your bed. During disasters, it's amazing how many people hurt themselves trying to get out of the house in a hurry, he said.

"I urge you to learn from Hurricane Andrew and make some emergency plans."


(Additional information)

Survival Items

-Portable radio with extra batteries.

-Flashlight with extra batteries,

-First-aid kit - including specific medicines needed for members of your households.

-First-aid book.

-Fire extinguisher.

-Adjustable wrench for turning off gas and water.

-Smoke detector, properly installed.

-Portable fire-escape ladder for homes/apartments with multiple flors.

-Bottled water - sufficient for the number of members in your household - not in glass bottles.

-Canned and dried foods sufficient for a week for each member of your household. Note: Both water and food should be rotated into normal meals of households so as to keep freshness. Canned goods have a normal shelf-life of one year for maximum freshness.

-Non-electric can opener.

-Portable stove, such as butane or charcoal. Note: Use of such stoves should not take place until it is determined that there is no gas leak in the area. Charcoal should be burned only outdoors; use of charcoal indoors will lead to carbon-monoxide poisoning.

-Blankets and sleeping bags.


-Telephone numbers of police, fire and doctor.

-Sanitation kit.