By Randy Huston
For Northwest Asian Weekly
Disasters can strike at any time, and being prepared is important for whatever emergency may happen in the Puget Sound. By preparing now, you will gain confidence and peace of mind in knowing how to react in a disaster. Plus, you will help make your whole community stronger and safer.
April is also Earthquake Preparedness Month. The recent devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, which devastated hundreds of thousands of people in Japan and impacted the United States, serve as a sobering reminder about the unpredictability of natural disasters. Just this last weekend, a 6.7 earthquake struck Indonesia. Fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any widespread damage.
The American Red Cross urges everyone to evaluate their own personal and family disaster plans and to take steps now to be better prepared. By having a disaster supplies kit, developing a plan, and being informed about potential disasters — including earthquakes — in your neighborhood, you will be better able to keep your family safe in an emergency until help arrives.
One of the most important steps is to have a disaster supplies kit at home. Your disaster kit needs to have non-perishable food, water, a first-aid kit, and other basic necessities for a minimum of three to seven days. Disaster kits need to be customized to fit the needs of your family, so in addition to the standard items, you should include food and toys for children, pet food, prescription medications, and copies of important documents. If you already have a kit, make sure to replace emergency food and water supplies every six months unless otherwise noted on the packaging. Keep and maintain your kit in an easy-to-access location. You can also keep smaller versions of your disaster kit in your family vehicles and at work.
Communication plans are also vital. Designate an out-of-area contact because local communication lines can be difficult to access during a disaster. Family members can call the contact person to report on their own status and check on others. SMS text messages from a wireless communication device will often work when a cellular signal is not strong enough to make a voice call.
Familiarize yourself with the Red Cross Safe and Well website (safeandwell.communityos.org) before a disaster strikes. Use this website after a disaster to let your family and friends know that you are safe and well; this will bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones. This website is designed to help make communication easy. During the Japanese earthquake, we saw many people use the Internet or SMS technology as a way to contact their family immediately after the earthquake.
Finally, take basic precautions to keep your dwelling safe. Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace, and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you.
Practice drop, cover, and hold on in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms. Strap down tall objects such as file cabinets and bookcases and keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed.
In the days ahead, the Red Cross will continue to work with state and federal response partners to further refine and assess our response plans locally and also continue to work with the Japanese Red Cross for their recovery. You can make a difference within your own family and community to plan for future disasters and help mitigate any potential damage that could occur. ♦
Randy Huston is CEO of the American Red Cross serving King & Kitsap Counties.
To learn about what do during or after an earthquake, please go to www.seattleredcross.org or www.redcrosswashington.org. For more information or to set up a disaster preparedness presentation for a community group, contact us at 206-709-4528 in King County or 360-377-3761 in Kitsap County.
Huston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.