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All in California should prepare for emergencies, including earthquakes
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National Preparedness Month became an annual event in 2004. The intent of the program is to educate the public about the importance of preparing for the kinds of threats and disasters facing us in the 21st century. Statistics suggest that barely half of U.S. households have any kind supplies in store for an emergency, and even fewer have a "plan" for family members to follow in the event an emergency where communication and travel abilities are limited or cut off completely.

According to a statement recently released by the federal government, National Preparedness Month is to "... stress the importance of strengthening the security and resiliency of our Nation through systematic preparation for the full range of hazards threatening the United States in the 21st century, including natural disasters, cyber attacks, pandemic disease, and acts of terrorism."

The threat of disasters is all too real. There have been a number of major calamities during the last decade alone, with examples like Hurricane Katrina, which left countless people homeless, without food, water or communication. Thousands of people had no where to go, and there were hundreds of deaths and countless injuries. And as we all know in the case of Katrina, the government response was inadequate, if not inept, so we were shown that we have to be able to take care of ourselves. I believe the Katrina experience has led to the federal government being better prepared, but even under the best of circumstances, help may not arrive to the victims of a disaster for at least 48 hours. In the case of Katrina, there were at least several day's advance warning; imagine what would have happened if a disaster of similar magnitude struck without warning!

The disaster in San Bruno was much better handled by the various levels of government that assisted, but compared to the size of Hurricane Katrina's area of damage, the San Bruno event was small and localized. Large disasters will quickly overwhelm the limited resources available, so planning at the individual level is the best form of preparation - both in terms of the physical needs and for psychological reasons.

The most basic preparatory steps are relatively easy to achieve. Households need to have a supply of water, food, medical supplies, and sanitation needs must be addressed. The special needs of infants and people with medical problems require special attention. Be sure not to forget about the needs of your pets, as well.

Again, keep in mind, that during a major disaster there may be no running water, food or communications, and plans have to be made accordingly. Medical attention will probably be allocated to the very worst cases, so some planning for that potential problem is necessary as well. Water is probably the single, most important supply to plan for, and each person will require a minimum of one gallon per day. Aside from water, there are many more necessities like having functional flashlights and a generator is also good to have. A list of essential items as well as things that are "nice" to have can be found at:

Finally, you can avoid panic and a lot of the stress that results from not knowing the welfare of family members and close friends. This too can be planned for by agreeing on predetermined meeting places. Having an out-of-state friend as an emergency contact so family members can have a single point of contact to communicate with is also a good way to stay in touch with each other.

We certainly cannot control natural disasters or industrial accidents, nor can we stop all terrorist attacks, but to a great extent, we can improve the odds for survival and increase our relative comfort levels by being aware and planning for these kinds of emergencies.