Preparing for disaster
By Johanna Hicks | Extension Agent/FCS

Disaster can strike at any place, any time, to anybody. One look at television news coverage of the recent upheaval caused by Hurricane Katrina proves that. Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas Department of State Health Services have a new publication, "Preparing for the Unexpected," to help families establish a plan.

Disasters can have natural causes, while others are caused by accidents or terrorists. Whatever the cause, being prepared can help lessen the impact of the crisis. Although we can't prevent disasters, we can reduce the risk of injury and even death by becoming informed.

Janie Harris, Extension Housing and Environment Specialist, suggests several actions families can take to establish their own plans. These include:

1) Escape routes: Know how to escape from each room of the house, as well as from the neighborhood.

2) Family communication: Know how to contact each other in case of separation. Have a designated contact out of state whom everybody knows to call.

3) Communication with emergency personnel: Know whom to call and keep numbers near each phone.

4) Utility shutoff and safety: Know how to disconnect the home's utilities in case of gas leak or fire.

5) Insurance and other important records: Keep copies of valuable personal papers in a safe place.

6) Special needs: Know what extra steps to take for family members who are very young, very old, or on medication.

7) Safety skills: Learn how to administer CPR and first aid.

Harris also suggests keeping a disaster supply kit within each reach. Each kit should contain such items as:

a) Water -- enough for at least three days, and at least one gallon of water per person, per day. 

b) Food -- items that require no refrigeration or preparation, such as peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, and protein bars.

c) Clean air items -- nose and mouth protection masks with N-95 rating.

d) Extra clothing -- at least one change of clothes per person, plus shoes and blanket.

e) First aid kit -- antibiotic ointment and towelettes, thermometer, Band-Aids, etc.

f) Emergency items -- flashlight and extra batteries, battery-operated radio, baby wipes, toilet paper, garbage bags, whistle.

g) Special needs items as necessary -- baby food and formula, diapers, prescription medications, denture and/or contact lens supplies.

Some disasters mean evacuating to a safe place. Authorities will not ask you to leave unless they determine that lives may be in danger. If they ask you to evacuate, do so immediately.

There are three important numbers to keep close to phones:

- Emergency 911, the universal emergency telephone number;

- 211 Texas First Call for Help, for non-emergency information and referrals;

- Texas Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222

In the meantime, let's continue to reach out and pray for our Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama neighbors. For many, Sulphur Springs will be their home, at least temporarily, and we want them to feel welcomed and cared for. 

FALL FESTIVAL

Don't forget about all the Fall Festival activities beginning this weekend. Also, remember to get those Household Arts Contest entries ready. You can register them on Thursday, Sept. 15, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., or Friday, Sept. 16, from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the High School Conference Center. You may also come by the Extension Office to pick up a registration form to save time. After judging, items will be on display starting around 1 p.m. Pictures of winners will be made at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and entries may be picked up at that time.

While you're in the high school, do a little early Christmas shopping in the Arts & Crafts Show. Vendors will be set up and ready for the public on Friday, Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

See you at "Your County Fair!"

CLOSING THOUGHT

Spirit is engaging our minds and hearts and souls to do the right thing.

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