Key to downsizing disaster: preparation


Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 1:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 1:35 p.m.

Getting prepared for a hurricane doesn't have to be a disaster.

Facts

Top 5 must-have hurricane supplies:

  • Water
  • Shelf-stable food
  • A weather or AM/FM radio
  • A cooking device
  • A flashlight and extra batteries

    Source: David Donnelly, Alachua County's assistant director of emergency management

  • A few simple precautions will go a long way.

    The most important way to prepare is to have a "family disaster plan," said Eshanne Anderson, emergency services director for the North Central Florida chapter of the Red Cross.

    Such a plan includes knowing where the nearest hurricane shelter is, establishing a safe place to meet, having emergency phone numbers handy and preparing a disaster supply kit for every family member.

    The kits, which should be good for a minimum three days, should include: At least a gallon of water per-person, per-day; for cooking and drinking, food, bedding and first-aid supplies.

    Stored in a water-tight container such as a trash can with a lid or a sturdy duffle bag, they can also include tools and supplies like matches, non-electric can-openers, a battery-operated radio with extra batteries, toiletries and games.

    The American Red Cross recommends having at least one complete change of clothing and closed-toed footwear, too.

    Anderson said it's important to think about just how long you may have to live away from home if a hurricane strikes. She prefers packing two weeks' worth of supplies to be safe.

    "Often people tell me they're prepared, and then all they have to eat is a box of saltine crackers," Anderson said.

    Besides not packing enough food, she said people need to think about the type of food they're stocking up on. When hurricanes are looming, she said stores see skyrocketing sales in foods like beer and Pop-Tarts, rather than more nutritious foods.

    Keecha Harris, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, has a few healthier ideas. She recommends canned juices or shelf-stable milk to drink and energy bars or instant oatmeal to eat. Ready-to-eat canned foods, such as meat, vegetables, fruits and stews, are another good source of nutrition in an emergency. For snacking, she recommends trail mix or dried fruits.

    Besides preparing for personal needs, it's important to storm-proof homes. Store important documents in waterproof containers, and if you can afford it, avoid the last-minute rush and buy plywood, nails and plastic sheeting to protect windows ahead of time. If you have large trees near your home, consider trimming them.

    Jeff Williams, owner of Gainesville's Jeff Williams Lawn Service, says he can trim as much as 1,000 pounds of dead limbs and extra weight from a single tree.

    "We go through and cut small limbs and upper limbs off so, when the wind comes at the trees, it can pass through. If a tree hasn't been trimmed, it's like hitting a brick wall," he said.

    To find out more about preparing for hurricane season, log on to www.redcross.org/services/disaster and click on "Be Prepared."

    Tiffany Pakkala can be reached at 338-3111 or pakkalt@gvillesun.com

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