By Frank Lewis
This time of year a nice hot sunny day can turn to a thunderstorm, flood or tornado in the blink of an eye or even a fire. What may follow is a loss of power and even a loss of the use of a floor of your home or even your home. Disasters can strike quickly and without warning and can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home.
“The most common (disaster) we see in our area is, by far, fire,” Debbie Smith, community executive with the local Red Cross chapter said. “That’s probably a good 95 percent of our disasters.”
Smith said, while the local chapter now consists of six counties, in three of those counties in the last year, the Red Cross responded to 371 fires and provided assistance.
“Sometimes we’ll see some flooding and sometimes small tornadoes might touch down or just high winds which can do damage too,” Smith said.
What would you do if basic services – water, gas, electricity or telephones were cut off? You need a plan which means the time to prepare is now while things are normal. The American Red Cross has a three-step plan which is available at the Red Cross office at 1801 Robinson Ave., in Portsmouth.
Step one is to get a kit and each week add more items, take additional steps each week and organize action steps. In week one put in the kit a gallon of water or water pouches, a jar of peanut butter, a six-pack of 6 ounce juice, canned meat such as chicken and or tuna, a hand-operated can opener, two permanent markers or pens, duct tape, two flashlights with batteries and extra batteries and a battery powered radio with extra batteries.
Additionally the Red Cross suggests pet food, diapers, baby food, and a leash or carrier.
They recommend you date perishable items with the marker, notify out-of-area contact to coordinate information for scattered family members using the Family Accountability System Card and to sign up for first aid and CPR classes at your local Red Cross.
The Red Cross office has a list of items needed for each additional week.
Step two is to make a plan in which you discuss with your family the disasters that can happen where you live, establish responsibilities for each member so you work as a team, designate alternatives in case someone is absent. Choose two places to meet after a disaster. Learn how and when to turn off utilities. Additionally ask your local fire department to show you how to use a fire extinguisher and make copies of emergency information for each to carry and stage drills.
Step three is to be informed, to learn what disasters or emergencies may occur where you live, work and play and identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster and how to get information and be trained in life-saving methods, which can be done through the Red Cross.
In the summer months, Smith said people need to be aware of the dangers of high temperatures.
“We see a lot of death caused by excessive heat and extreme weather,” Smith said. “We also want to remind people about staying safe in the summer heat, not overdoing it and don’t spend too much time in the sun. You’ve also got to be very careful of hot cars. They can be deadly. Temperatures rise in hot cars much quicker. Staying hydrated and those types of things are extremely important.”
She said it is important in hot weather to regularly check on family and friends as well as neighbors. Another thing to be concerned about is exposure to heat by pets.
“People can come here (Red Cross office) and we can give them information about starting an emergency kit and having a disaster plan for their family,” Smith said. “We also have some great information about fire safety and things like that.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.