More than 180 tornadoes struck the United States in May. Major disaster declarations were issued in 26 states from Jan. 1 to June 2. Thousands have found themselves unprepared for the aftermath of these types of emergencies.
How do you prevent yourself from becoming a statistic?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends assembling a disaster supply kit. These kits are inexpensive, relatively quick to put together and should be stored in your home. Here are some tips:
Water: Two-thirds of the human body is water. Plan on having one gallon of water per person per day. Soda, juice, milk or other drinks aren't a substitute for water.
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Food: When storing food, take into consideration the needs of infants, the elderly, and people with special dietary needs (such as diabetics). Select foods that don't require heating or refrigeration. Make sure some foods are high in protein, such as nuts and canned tuna. Have a manual can opener. Sort foods by expiration date and check your stock at least every six months.
Heat: Exposure to cold for long periods can be life-threatening. Store coats and blankets and don't forget fuel. Kerosene or propane heaters may be used if they are approved for indoor use. Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from kerosene and propane heaters by providing ventilation for your heater.
Be cautious of striking any matches until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Never use a gas or charcoal grill, or a gas cooking stove or oven for home heating. Don't burn charcoal indoors.
Pets: Your animals will need access to food and water. Also keep pet carriers handy in case you need to leave your home.
Communication: Television broadcasts, Internet, landline phones and cell towers might be disabled during a disaster. Emergency radios that can be powered by a crank are essential for any disaster-preparedness kit. They can operate without batteries, be used as a flashlight, to charge cellphones and to monitor NOAA weather, AM, FM, WB and SW bands.
Medications and First Aid supplies: Store critical medications, such as inhalers and insulin, in a cool, dry place. Include supplies such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, gauze dressings, scissors, pain relievers, tweezers and a thermometer in a first aid kit. The American Red Cross sells assembled kits.
Light: Always have flashlights and extra batteries. There are also battery-free flashlights that charge by shaking or cranking. Candles are another potential light source. Don't light candles unless you are sure no gas leaks exist. Never leave a candle or any other open flame unattended.
Emergency Notification: Communications might be limited during a disaster. Make plans in advance with a friend or family member who lives far away to relay information to others for you in the event of a disaster. That way, you will need to make only one call to let others know where you are and that you are safe.
The keys to coping with a disaster are planning ahead to think of your logistical needs and maintaining a safe home. You cannot prevent a disaster from taking place, but you can be prepared.