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What you know makes the difference in an emergency

PROVO, Utah — It's what you know that makes a vital difference in an emergency situation.What you have can come in handy, says an emergency preparedness expert at BYU, but it's information that saves lives.Kerry Baum, emergency manager at the university, told his audience of BYU employees at a brown bag luncheon Thursday that people need to focus on planning and preparation.Baum said while there are a dozen different disasters that can be expected to occur in Utah — and particularly in Utah Valley — there are common things to think about for each one. (He listed earthquakes, floods, fires, transportation accidents or hazmat problems, terrorist attacks, energy failures, pandemics and bomb threats as real possibilities.)Families need to plan where to meet, have set up an out-of-state contact person who everyone knows about and figure out how they'll communicate.People need water, food, clean air (include face masks in a 72-hour kit), warmth and basic supplies, whether the disaster is an earthquake, a power failure, a flood, fire or civil disruption. He recommended having an \"office kit\" that includes water, a whistle, a blanket, comfortable shoes, high-energy food and a flashlight.Baum said families should talk about whether they'll stay or go in a given situation. If they're going to try to get away, they need a plan for that option. People need to assess what their employers will expect and what the schools and/or day-care providers will do.Baum said it's a good idea to find out what an individual community has planned, learn what the warning signals will be and teach children to call for help.He suggested making plans for the most probable disasters and putting together a checklist for those plans that includes emergency guidelines, supplies and contact information that is current and available.\"Find out what can happen, create a plan, create and follow a checklist, practice and maintain your plan,\" he said. \"Know how to turn off the gas and when. Secure water heaters, bookcases and file cabinets. Have a good pair of shoes handy, so walking to a safe place is doable. In a flood, don't drive across flooded roads.\"While it's helpful to have food, shelter and water, if a person knows what to do and where to go, that makes the critical difference, he added. (If Johnny is waiting under a tree in the backyard while everyone else is waiting out front, dad may unnecessarily run back into a burning home to save him.)Baum said BYU has already had its share of emergency situations, including a terrorist attack (Cody Judy threatened President Howard W. Hunter at a fireside), attacks by the Animal Liberation Front on the Kimball Tower, an event staged by gay-rights activists and packages mailed from the university post office by the Unibomber.Twenty percent of all terrorist attacks occur on college campuses, he added.Baum said BYU is taking giant steps to prepare for emergencies. There's enough food on campus tot feed up to 33,000 for a few days and every building but one has been built or retrofitted to withstand an earthquake event, he said. (The last building is scheduled for demolition within the next few years.)The university has evacuation plans in place for every building and conducts disaster and fire drills annually, he said.