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Utahns are urged to help prepare for emergencies

Katrina boosts interest in getting disaster supplies

Utah won't likely experience a hurricane — but there may come a time when food and water are scarce and residents have nowhere to call home.

The state of emergency left in Hurricane Katrina's wake hit home this past week as Utahns rushed to ready themselves and their families.

"An emergency such as they have experienced there has definitely created an increased interest in emergency preparedness here," Salt Lake City emergency program manager Michael Stever said. "It all takes on new meaning when there has been an emergency."

Katrina moved 12 to 15 miles per hour, giving those ahead of the hurricane a bit of time to get ready and leave.

The types of natural disasters apt to strike Utah — earthquakes or a devastating fire, for instance — don't call ahead. That's why it's important that people here learn from what's happened with Katrina and take some time to review their own emergency preparedness, local experts say.

Stever said he sent out an e-mail to all city employees Friday, encouraging readiness for any unlikely yet catastrophic event that might hit Utah.

"Family and individual preparedness is the foundation of emergency preparedness and may mean survival in a time of disaster," he said.

Gun sales have reportedly picked up over the past week in Louisiana. Utahns, however, haven't felt that pressure. Numbers haven't changed much in new firearm purchases, according to a salesman at Sportsman's Warehouse in Midvale.

Carlin Kenner, night manager at General Army Navy Outdoor, said people haven't rushed the Salt Lake store, but a run on emergency preparedness goods is expected.

"It takes a couple of days to trigger it in people's minds," she said.

Traffic has been steady at the Emergency Essentials outlet store in Orem, one employee says, and online and nationwide sales have picked up.

"People from out of state, here for other business, come in to get 72-hour kits all the time," he said.

Kits containing various essentials to carry a person at least three days are the most popular way to prepare for disaster. They cost anywhere from $10 to $300. However, there are items that can be collected from around the house that would be deemed essential in case of emergency.

Stever advises people to have at least a half-tank of gas in every car at all times. He said ATMs would most likely be out of service in a time of disaster and that every home should have some cash on hand. He also recommends that every home have a battery-operated flashlight and radio available. First-aid kits, including sanitation supplies, are also essential.

"Seventy-two hours is good, but 10 days is better," Stever said.

Although gas prices have jumped and other costs will likely go up as a result of the hurricane, "we fortunately were not directly affected," said Mariann Geyer, CEO of the Greater Salt Lake Chapter of the American Red Cross. "We hope this is an opportunity for people to step back and say, 'Would I be prepared for a disaster?'

"If there's a big fire in your neighborhood and you can't get to your house, do you have an emergency plan?" she asked. "Do your kids know where to go or how to get in touch with your mom, who lives two towns over?

"People should be asking what they have at home. If there is no power or water for three days, do you have enough water put aside? And candles, battery-operated radio, food?"

Geyer also hopes people will think about getting training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation because those could be crucial skills to have in an emergency.

"Going at it with a level-headed approach," Stever said, is the most effective way to prepare for any emergency, even an extended power outage.


Contributing: Lois Collins

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com