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Remember Katrina by preparing now

Who will ever forget the heart-wrenching aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? The tear-stained faces of her stunned and desperate victims will forever be etched in our minds. At this distance, aside from our prayers and monetary donations, there is nothing we can do for those poor people. Their lives will forever be changed. Remember their plights, and prepare now to prevent yours.

Natural disasters are no respecters of age or status. Young and old alike have been displaced. Many are shell-shocked and disoriented. Some didn't have so much as a pair of shoes to protect their feet from the broken glass, debris, exposed nails, hot pavement and treacherous waterways, etc. Most have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. The irony of surviving the hurricane was worsened by survivors not listening to their radios to learn that the levees had failed. Grief was multiplied.

If those who did heed the evacuation orders (seeking emergency shelter) had taken with them previously assembled emergency kits, they would have made more tolerable the austere circumstances they faced. Who would have ever imagined that emergency shelters hadn't been previously stocked, or that they would face the long duration of going without proper sanitation or receiving water and food drops? Hence, the need to take something in with you. MREs are perfect for our military and for emergency purposes during power failures, etc.

The American Red Cross says, "The intent of the items in your kit is to enable your family to treat minor health difficulties and keep injuries from becoming a threat during the first 72 hours after an emergency. It is assumed (hoped) that medical help will be available 'from some source' by that time."

Recent news broadcasts have shown that it takes more time than the public realizes to mobilize help from afar. In this case, much longer than the anticipated 72 hours before rescuers can get into affected neighborhoods and shelters. This illustrates the importance of establishing personal and community preparedness plans prior to any crisis. When phone lines and cell phones go down, ham radios are best.

Much has to be done before help arrives. To save lives and recover victims, communication lines have to be restored to coordinate the efforts of local, state and federal agencies. Volunteers need to be organized to maximize their willingness to help. Thoroughfares need to be cleared. Power grids need to be reconnected. Law and order need to be established for the safety of rescuers and victims alike. How prepared are you and your family to survive the interim?

We all cried for those parents who didn't know how they were going to care for their families. They didn't have food, water, a change of clothes, diapers, ponchos, flashlights, prescriptions, first-aid items, insect repellent, snake-bite kits and protection from the heat or winter's cold.

To reconstruct your paper lives for FEMA and your insurance company, carry personal ID, copies of bank account numbers, insurance records, wills, deeds, powers of attorney, Social Security numbers, and medical/immunization records for your family.

I can't help those who suffered the hurricane's wrath, but I can help you. It is imperative that we respond to evacuation orders and heed other "voices of warning and counsel."

What form will "our Katrina" take? Local and statewide agencies warn us to prepare for the likelihood of an earthquake. They say, "It's not a matter of IF, but WHEN."

Remember, no evacuation orders are given before an earthquake. They just come. Our preparation time is now. Learn what to include in your 72-hour kit, and where the safest places are to ride out the quake and its aftershocks. Should the need arise, learn how and where to turn off your utilities.

We all have supplies in our homes that would sustain us until help arrives, but if we don't have something packed and ready to go with us out the door "in a moment's notice," what we have "throughout the house" (or with us in the trunk of our car), may not continue to be readily accessible in the event of a natural disaster. Preparing a few simple basics ahead of time lessens the fear of the unknown.

Excellent Web pages can be found at Ready.gov and lds.com, etc. A visit to your local American Red Cross Chapter, or their Web site, will also produce a wealth of preparatory information. For missing family members, call the Red Cross at 866-GET INFO. For donations to same, call 800-HELP NOW.


Jolene Parker, the "Food Storage Lady," is the author of "A Practical, Affordable, Do-able Approach to Emergency Preparedness." and is one of several contributors to Utah Valley Life's "Running the Home" feature. You can send questions or ideas to her at utahcounty@desnews.com. Call 801-756-9223 to order her book.