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Preparedness is key to emergency plans

Posted: Tuesday, Dec 11th, 2012

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — If the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy taught anything, it’s the unfortunate fact that many Americans remain unprepared for a disaster.

But there are some simple and affordable steps that residents everywhere can take to stay safe and relatively comfortable in the event of an unforeseen emergency. By planning ahead of time, they can also ease the burden on emergency responders, and allow them to better mobilize their resources.

Alamosa County Emergency Planning Coordinator David Osborn told commissioners last week that community preparedness is a key part of his department’s new emergency operations plan.

He estimates that for about $111, a family can assemble its own emergency kit.

“For 100 bucks, you can get a lot of stuff,” he said Dec. 5.

A basic kit should be able to last for at least 72 hours; however, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it might not be a bad idea to set aside a two-week supply of necessities.

Drinking water is at the top of the list. FEMA recommends that residents should stash at least one gallon of water per person each day, with extra water for pets. Residents should also have enough non-perishable food to last at least three days; all canned goods should be stored in a cool, dry place.

Other essential items should include a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a whistle, dust masks, spare batteries and moist towelettes. A wrench, a pair of pliers and a manual can opener can also come in handy, while plastic sheeting and duct tape can be used to put a makeshift shelter together.

Don’t forget about maps, FEMA says, or a cell phone that comes equipped with an inverter or a solar-powered charger.

Once folks assembled a basic kit, FEMA suggests they consider some additions, including prescription medications, eyeglasses, infant formula, diapers, pet food, personal hygiene products, a fire extinguisher, waterproof matches and unscented household chlorine bleach.

In this climate, sleeping bags or blankets for each person are a must, too, as is plenty of warm clothing.

Paperwork is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about what they will need in the wake of an emergency. But FEMA suggests that residents should store copies of insurance policies, bank account records, personal identification and emergency reference manuals in portable, waterproof containers.

Getting back to the county’s plan itself, the focus on community preparedness is ultimately just one of several key aspects that local, state and federal officials worked on over time.

The plan also aims to identify and mobilize any helpful resources that are available locally and regionally. That way, emergency responders can enter into aid agreements in advance, and remain better prepared in the event that an incident occurs, Osborn said.

In the future, the plan may be adjusted, if necessary, based on feedback from a local citizens’ advisory group.

“I think this group is going to be really helpful to this community,” Osborn said.

To learn more about how to prepare for an emergency, go to: www.ready.gov.

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