St. Charles sheriff urges readiness for disaster

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

HAHNVILLE – At one time disaster preparedness was the sole concern of hurricane-prone Gulf residents and the Atlantic seaboard, earthquake-prone Californians and for those who live in that part of the country known as “Tornado Alley.” But no longer.

Times have changed and preparedness must now account for man-made disasters as well as those created by Mother Nature. When seconds count, knowing what to do can make all the difference in the world.

At the start of each year, more than half of all Americans resolve to make some sort of change for the better in their livesŠ..lose weight, quit smoking, or save more money. But realistically, most people do not keep their resolutions. This year, the U.S. department of Homeland Security (DHS) is encouraging citizens to make a resolution for 2005 to create their own family emergency plans.

St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg C. Champagne joins the DHS and says, “This is the perfect time for St. Charles Parish residents to create emergency preparedness plans that will allow them to know how to communicate with each other in the event of an emergency.”

Already underway, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s newly developed READY campaign encourages Americans to develop a family emergency plan in case of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other emergency. You have probably already seen the television ads now airing which feature children questioning parents about what to do in the event of an emergency.

Sheriff Champagne indicated, “While there’s now way to predict the future or know what will happen, there are some simple things now you can do to prepare yourself and your loved ones in the event of an emergency, either man-made or natural. Those things include assembling a supply kit and creating a family communication plan.”

One’s survival depends upon water, food, and clean airŠ.the basics. They are absolutely essential and assembling emergency supplies for a man-made disaster is not altogether different than putting one together for a natural disaster. Think in terms of what you might do if a hurricane was headed toward the state.

Sheriff Champagne supports the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in recommending the following items for a basic emergency preparedness kit:

€ Water, one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation

€ Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

€ Battery-powered radio and extra batteries

€ First Aid Kit

€ Whistle to signal for help and attract attention

€ Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter air

€ Wrench or Pliers to turn off utilities

€ Can opener for food, if kit contains canned food

€ Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

€ Infant formula and diapers, if you have an infant

€ Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

€ A sleeping bag or blanket for each person

€ One complete change of clothing and shoes per person, including:

o A jacket or a coat

o Long pants

o A long sleeve shirt

o Sturdy shoes

o Gloves

Additional items you may wish to include in your supply kit are:

€ Emergency reference materials such as a first aid book or a print out of this information

€ Rain gear

€ Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils

€ Cash or travelers checks, change

€ Paper Towels

€ Fire Extinguisher

€ Tent

€ Compass

€ Matches in a waterproof container

€ Signal Flare

€ Paper, Pencil

€ Medicine Dropper

€ Feminine supplies

€ Personal hygiene items

€ Disinfectant

€ Household chlorine bleach

Bleach can be used as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency, it can also be used to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.

And do not forget to keep copies of important family records such as insurance policies, and identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. It is not known whether your family will be together or not if a disaster occurs, so create a Family Plan so all of you will know how to contact each other. Then, go over what you will do in different situations

€ An out of town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members, so making a long-distance phone call may be easier than making a call across town.

€ Be certain that all family members know contact numbers and have coins or prepaid phone cards to call those emergency contacts.

€ Be patient. Telephone lines may be down completely, so you may have a difficult time getting through altogether.

In closing Sheriff Champagne said, “Our best defense against disasters, man-made or natural, is to take precautions well in advance. Don’t delay. It’s never too early to create a family plan. Vigilance is the key to securing your safety and that of your loved ones.”