Making an Emergency Preparedness Kit Overwhelms Some People

Water and warmth are key. Resources that may be on hand at home include hot water heaters that can offer an emergency supply of water, matches, lighters, and lint found in driers or vacuum cleaners to use as fire starter.

by Kimberly Cauvel, Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash. / November 12, 2019

(TNS) — In a region at risk of disasters such as volcanic eruptions and major earthquakes, and where flooding and windstorms are commonplace, officials recommend individuals and families have emergency response plans and adequate supplies on hand to help them survive.

“It behooves everyone to be aware and be prepared ... so they are equipped to ride out the event,” said Jason Miller, mayor of Concrete, which is in the danger zones of two volcanoes: Mount Baker and Glacier Peak.

While the general recommendation from emergency preparedness experts is to create kits with two weeks’ worth of supplies, some find that overwhelming and it keeps them from preparing at all.

“People don’t want to do this,” said Dennis Clark of the volunteer West Skagit Community Emergency Response Team. “There are a lot of things people would rather do than prepare a kit for a disaster.”

Heather Jones and Krista Madlung, co-owners of local emergency preparedness company Strategic Emergency Education, suggest starting with an inventory of what’s already on hand at home.

“A lot of people are probably fairly prepared at home, they just don’t think about it,” said Madlung, who formerly worked with the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management.

Water and warmth are key. Food is not as critical over short periods of time and can typically be found in at least small quantities throughout kitchens and pantries, Jones and Madlung said.

Other resources that may be on hand at home include hot water heaters that can offer an emergency supply of water, matches or lighters, and lint found in driers or vacuum cleaners to use as a fire starter. Camping gear can also offer a treasure trove of useful items, including stoves for cooking and sleeping bags to ensure warmth if the power goes out.

“Can you survive in your home for two days with no water and no power?” Madlung said. “Do something to practice with your family. Turn the power off all weekend and see how you do.”

She and Jones recommend starting with enough supplies to last for two days and then adding to that — perhaps a little bit per grocery trip or payday — until there’s enough for two weeks.

“You don’t have to get crazy with it,” Jones said. “You don’t have to build an underground shelter and fill it with stuff.”

The duo formed Strategic Emergency Education in 2017 with the mission to help everyone, from school districts and cities to businesses and families, be prepared for the worst.

For their clients and partners, Strategic Emergency Education has started preparing five-gallon buckets stuffed with basic supplies that include a small first aid kit, candle and matches, a few bottles of water, a blanket and a few pieces of candy.

Those buckets, purchased for $3 and filled with about $20 worth of items, are now found in every classroom of the Sedro-Woolley School District in case teachers have to hunker down with their students during an emergency.

Jones and Madlung said a bucket is a great way for families to prepare, too, by setting aside a small amount of supplies, knowing where they are and tailoring the contents as needed, such as adding a spare inhaler for someone with asthma.

“You can personalize it to meet your family’s needs,” Jones said.

For families with children, toys or treats that can be used as a distraction to keep the children calm may be important to include.

In a region with two high-risk volcanoes, goggles and face masks may also be useful if it’s necessary to go outdoors while ash is falling, as well as plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal off part of a home.

Whether in a bucket or a bag, Jones and Madlung also suggest keeping a go-kit of at least bottled water, blankets, and lighter or matches in vehicles.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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©2019 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.)

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