Disaster Ready: Preparing for the Worst




Weather-related disasters can alter a family’s normal routine with little warning. With severe storm season here, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages families to create a plan.

OSDH suggest families to have a basic, 72-hour emergency kit and include important items such as water, snacks, first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, cash, prescription medicine and important paperwork.

Parents can help reduce the effect of disasters on children by adding a few simple kid-friendly supplies like books, games, a favorite toy or comfort item and medical items like infant/child fever reducer to the kit. Those with babies should consider a three-day supply of formula, diapers, antibacterial wipes, non-perishable baby food and sealable plastic bags for soiled items.

Scott Sproat, director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Service at OSDH, reminds families to also consider medical conditions and any unique needs as well.

“If you have, or care for someone, with a disability or functional needs, it’s especially important to include needed supplies, equipment and medications as part of your planning efforts,” said Sproat. “If evacuating from the home is necessary, it is important to take medication and specialty equipment such as hearing aids, oxygen, a wheelchair, diabetic supplies, food for a special diet or supplies for a service animal.”

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s Emergency Preparedness Division's (OCCHD) Emergency Preparedness Supervisor Blaine Bolding recommends making an emergency preparedness kit as a fun family activity to help children feel involved which can give them a sense of empowerment.

It is important to remember that your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to have a plan in place in advance to make everyone knows how to get to a safe place, how to contact one another and what to do in different situations. During a disaster, roads are often blocked, and alternate routes must be used. Knowing multiple routes of travel in advance can save time and frustration when trying to reach loved ones.

Bolding also said knowing the difference between a watch and warning is vital to your safety.

“A watch means be prepared, stay informed and ready to act if a warning is issued.  The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states. While a warning indicates imminent danger to life and property exists. Get out of mobile homes. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area around the size of a city of small county that may be impacted by large hail or damaging wind.”

Severe storms are often followed by flash flooding. If an evacuation of a neighborhood is ordered, it is important to leave immediately. If possible, make arrangements to stay with a nearby friend or relative as hotels will be filled quickly. A disaster shelter can be used as well but remember that not all shelters allow pets, and plan to bring your own emergency supply kit.

OSDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer the additional following tips for families preparing for disasters:

  • Check with your mobile carrier for options on wireless emergency alerts being delivered to your cell phone or other device.
  • Practice your plan by quizzing your children periodically, and conduct fire and other emergency drills.
  • Check emergency supplies throughout the year to replace batteries, food and water as needed.
  • Plan alternate ways to charge communication and assistive technology devices if there is loss of power.
  • Plan for medication requiring refrigeration.

Families can begin their preparations with a handy outline by visiting www.ready.gov or watch one of OSDH emergency preparedness videos offered in English, Spanish and American Sign Language. To access these videos, visit the OSDH YouTube channel and select the Preparedness playlist.

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