One key to handling disaster: Be prepared
By Mark Wineka
It had disaster written all over it.
The Salisbury Fire Department, with the help of some friends, conducted a Disaster Preparedness Seminar for the public Thursday at the main fire station on East Innes Street.
The bottom-line message for being prepared for a disaster?
Have a plan.
Make an emergency kit.
Battalion Chief David Morris stressed that families actually should have two emergency kits ó or at least one that is mobile and can be moved to a vehicle when they aren’t at home.
But the key is preparation, Morris said, noting several times that “it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
North Carolina ranks 24th in the number of disasters it encounters annually, Morris said.
In North Carolina, disasters are most likely to come in the form of weather-related events such as tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes and ice storms.
“We have disasters right here in Rowan County,” Morris reminded people in the audience who still have vivid memories of Hurricane Hugo’s destruction in 1989 and a major ice storm’s effect only a few years back.
In disaster situations, citizens have to realize that emergency services often are taxed, and they should be prepared for making it on their own for up to three days, Morris said.
Emergency supply kits should include non-perishable foods not requiring refrigeration, cooking or water for their preparation. Canned foods are good, for example, as long as the kit includes a manual can opener.
As for water, families should have at the ready a gallon of water per person and pet each day for three days.
Other crucial emergency kit supplies should include battery-powered radios (and extra batteries), flashlights (and extra batteries), a first-aid kit, a whistle, a blanket and a wrench or pliers.
The first-aid kit should include any special medications required by family members.
The whistle ó Morris had one that sounded like an air horn ó is important to signal for help if one is trapped somewhere.
A wrench or pliers can come in handy to turn off leaking utilities.
Many of the free seminar’s participants went home with door prizes and mini-backpack first-aid kits, supplied by Total Resources International.
Other partners in the session included the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, represented by Faye Stone of the N.C. Governor’s Office, and the nationally syndicated television show “NASCAR Angels.”
“NASCAR Angels” was taping portions of the event to include with its future show connected with the Salisbury Fire Department and the family of firefighter Victor Isler Sr., who along with Justin Monroe, was killed in the March 7 fire at Salisbury Millwork.
NASCAR Angels, sort of a car version of “Extreme Makeover,” plans to have a special event connected with the Isler family starting at 9:30 this morning at the main fire station.
One of the show’s hosts, Shannon Wiseman, said a theme of the program is being “car-care aware.” She added that “NASCAR Angels” was “taking it to a whole new level” Thursday in showing how to have one’s car prepared in case of a disaster, too.
The “NASCAR Angels” show connected to Salisbury is scheduled to air for the first time on Channel 9 in Charlotte June 28-29.
Morris said a family emergency plan should include multiple ways out of a home or whole area. There should be a backup plan to the plan, he said.
A family should designate two meeting places in case its members are separated in a disaster. One should be in the neighborhood, and one should be outside its neighborhood.
When authorities advise people to evacuate, they should listen, Morris said. When leaving, they should have several alternate routes in mind, take their emergency supply kits, lock their doors and take their pets.
Morris emphasized that instances also could occur when authorities instruct people to stay where they are. Again, they should listen. he said.
Stone, of the governor’s office, outlined five community programs falling under Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps umbrella.
They include the Fire Corps, Community Emergency Response Teams, Medical Reserve Corps, Volunteers in Police Service and Neighborhood Watch/USAonWatch.
Community Emergency Response Teams, or CERT, are probably the most familiar. The program trains citizens in basic disaster responsibility skills through Federal Emergency Management Agency-structured training.
Helpful Web sites for citizens wanting to know more about disaster preparedness include www.ready.gov, ReadyNC.org and www.salisburync.gov/fire.