Prepare For Emergencies Before They Happen

With some disasters, like storms and floods, you may have a little advance warning. Others happen suddenly. Any emergency can leave you feeling helpless and lost. But a little preparedness can go a long way towards minimizing the damage, both physical and emotional.

"One of the best resources you have is just a backpack in your house...these make excellent disaster kits," said Anita Foster, a rapid response disaster worker who says that the basic kit should include some food like crackers and peanut butter, a great disaster food.

A first aid kit is critical, along with some bottled water, of course -- ideally, about three gallons per person. A sturdy blanket can protect against debris as well as keep you warm.

Batteries and a flashlight are also essential. Work gloves and a manual can opener can be life savers. So-called comfort items include a tooth brush and paste, razor, deodorant, tampons, kleenex, and a several day supply of any prescription medications.

But Foster cautions: you have to keep all of the items fresh. "When time changes, change the supplies in your disaster kit, change your bottled water out, change the batteries out for your radio and your flashlight. Change out your prescription medications."

Something else you might not think of for your disaster kit is a pen and a pencil and a notepad. The notepad should have all essential phone numbers like doctor's office, daycare, and other relatives that need to be contacted.

And everyone in the family should know the phone number, have it memorized, for the same out-of-town or preferably out-of-state contact person. If you get separated, that person can be your point person to help your family come back together.

Also, have some cash on hand ATMs won't work if the power is out. Likewise, keep gas in your tank.