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SURVIVING A DISASTER People, get ready...



Published: Sun, November 18, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Stop worrying about terrorist attacks and do something constructive -- pack up an emergency supply kit.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Clarice Perrico was a California girl all her life before moving to Girard three years ago, so it's second nature for her to keep a disaster supply kit for her family.

Stashed away in her Wellman Avenue garage are a first aid kit, water, nonperishable food, extra clothes for herself, her husband and their adult daughter, and even food for the family's two dogs.

Back in California it was the threat of earthquakes that made emergency provisions a necessity, said Perrico, 52. Here in Ohio there are other natural disasters to be prepared for, such as tornadoes and snowstorms.

But now, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the anthrax scare and continuing threats of more terrorist violence, Perrico and her husband, Richard, think it's more important than ever to sock away some emergency provisions.

Perrico said she's tried to talk some of her Girard friends and neighbors into putting aside disaster supplies, but many dismiss the idea.

"It's not going wacko. It's just being prepared," Perrico said. "It empowers you."

"People say nothing's going to happen in Girard. They think that because it's a small town, we're safe. I feel like we probably are very safe, but you never know. You don't know what's going to happen, or where."

Officials agree: Officials with the American Red Cross and the Mahoning County Disaster Services agree with Perrico's "be prepared" philosophy, and they want to get the message out.

Walter Duzzny, disaster services director, says his agency has always stressed the importance of home disaster supply kits. Its recommendations for the kit are the same, whether the consumer is preparing for a tornado, a bioterrorist attack or a blizzard.

"If you were talking to me about disaster supplies before Sept. 11, I would have said the exact same things I'm saying now," Duzzny said.

He said the emergency provisions should be sufficient to sustain everyone in the household for three days and nights.

He recommends storing supplies in the basement. Some other experts recommend a windowless interior room. In the case of a tornado the basement is always best.

Some items -- a radio, flashlights, batteries, blankets and a change of clothes for each person -- should be packed in covered, easily moveable containers in case the family is forced to evacuate.

"It doesn't matter what type of disaster you're facing," Duzzny explained. "You have to think of what you would need if you had to stay in your house for 72 hours."

Food and water: Duzzny prefers standard, nonperishable foods that don't have to be heated, like crackers, peanut butter and canned fruit, instead of military rations and specialty survival foods. "People spend a lot of money on military rations and then they don't know what to do with them," he said.

Water should be stored in plastic, gallon jugs or 2-liter pop bottles, he said. It's all right to use tap water instead of buying bottled water at the supermarket, but the water should be replaced every six months.

Russell Preston, executive director of the Mahoning County branch of the American Red Cross, said radios and plenty of batteries and flashlights are crucial.

Since power outages can occur in any disaster, a battery-operated radio could be the family's only source of information and emergency management officials' only way to communicate with the public. Preston said disaster officials would attempt to get on the air quickly with specific instructions.

In house, vehicles: A Red Cross veteran, Preston said he has always maintained an emergency supply kit at home and smaller kits -- including blankets, a radio, flashlights, batteries and a first aid kit -- in his family's vehicles.

Blankets, pillows and a change of clothes for each person in the family are important, he said, along with a first aid kit and sanitation supplies to take the place of toilet facilities, if necessary.

Some family members' needs could also necessitate including special items, such as prescription medications, food for people on special diets, baby food and formula and pet food.

"The whole purpose of emergency supplies is giving you a better sense of security," Preston said. "There are scary things happening, and threats of things that could happen, and you have no control over them. This is one thing you can do. You can be prepared."

vinarsky@vindy.com




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