In any emergency, from a minor inconvenience to a major-league disaster, the key to getting through it safely is preparedness.
Luck can play a part, as can resourcefulness and ingenuity, but what makes the greatest difference is preparedness. In a minor nuisance it will make things easier – in a catastrophe, preparedness could save your life.
Two things have brought preparedness to my attention today. One is that through a tweet from Ozark’s Red Cross I’ve learned that in the USA September’s National Preparedness Month – the other’s that this morning we’ve had a power outage.
Not a disaster, granted, but still a nuisance that crashed computers and left the neighborhood unable to cook breakfast, turn a light on, keep warm on the coldest day we’ve had since winter, or even make a cup of coffee.
Last time it happened was late one winter’s afternoon – and I didn’t have a notion what to do.
It was dark, and I didn’t have a flashlight. It was cold, and I couldn’t find a sweater. There was no way of cooking dinner, and there wasn’t any canned food in the house. The road was icy, and in pitch darkness it wasn’t a good plan to try to make it to the car.
The outage lasted until morning, and I went to bed hungry, miserable, cold – and very, VERY angry with myself.
Preparedness? I’d never even HEARD of it!
This time it was different – and not only because it was over much more quickly. This time, there was canned food in the cupboard, a sweater handy, a flashlight close to the computer and a book to read until the power came back on.
This time, it was a minor inconvenience instead of a miserable experience I’m embarrassed to recall… and the difference was simply the preparedness.
In an emergency, you can ratchet up the difference preparedness will make by HUNDREDS of percentage points. A friend on Twitter often tweets he’s got to go because the hurricane alarm just sounded. The first time I tweeted back to check he and his family were OK. He seemed surprised – he regards interrupting what he’s doing to go deal with the arrival of a hurricane as an everyday occurrence!
His home has a hurricane shelter, and all the family know exactly what to do when the alarm sounds. They’re wary of these mega-winds – but not afraid of them. The key, he told me, is preparedness.
How good is YOUR preparedness for an emergency?
Does your home have at least one smoke alarm close to the most likely sources of a fire (the kitchen, and the room that your computer’s in), and do you test the batteries each week?
Does everyone in the family know how to get out if they’re ever trapped upstairs by fire?
Do the children know exactly how to get help in an emergency?
Do you have a first aid kit at home (and in the car), and does everyone know how to use it?
Do you know how to stop a kitchen fire in its tracks – and why you mustn’t just throw water at it?
Do you know that in a gas leak you must NEVER use the phone or switch the light on? (They both can give off sparks, too small for you to see, but big enough to set off an explosion. Open the window – break it if you have to – then go outside and use your cell-phone to get help.)
In a serious emergency, you haven’t time to think. It all depends on your preparedness.
Preparedness is key… and it’s quite easy.
The American Red Cross has a checklist that you might find useful. You can adapt the list to suit yourself – the things you’d need for an evacuation are the same as if you can’t get out because of floods or heavy snow, or if you catch the flu.
It’s worth a few minutes to go take a look – you never know when your life, or the lives of those you love, just might depend on your preparedness.