Preparing for any disaster

The new year is an ideal time to revise your emergency preparation plans

Having the tools and supplies on hand to dealt with unexpected events can make a huge difference in your ability to respond, as well as recover, in case of emergency, according to the American Red Cross.

Mary Owen
Having the tools and supplies on hand to dealt with unexpected events can make a huge difference in your ability to respond, as well as recover, in case of emergency, according to the American Red Cross.

What happens if you call 911 and help is not immediately available?

In this case, chances are good your hometown is itself experiencing an emergency, and first responders are stretched thin.

So what do you do?

“It’s incredibly important for people to be prepared for emergencies,” says Melinda Davis, preparedness and partnerships manager for the American Red Cross, Cascades Region. “Having the tools and supplies on hand to deal with unexpected events can make a huge difference in our ability to respond, as well as recover.”

Davis advises having conversations with close friends and families “now” to establish your network of people who understand your specific needs and can help you during an emergency.

“Create an emergency kit with enough food and water for 72-plus hours, and also include prescription information and copies of your important documents,” she says. “Get to know your neighbors. They are most likely the ones who will be able to help you after an emergency. Let them know if you will need extra assistance in evacuating your home during an emergency.”

The Red Cross advises seniors to consider physical, medical, thinking or learning limitations when preparing an emergency plan. Wheelchairs, canes and walkers should be labeled with name, address and phone numbers. Keep hearing aids, glasses or assistive devices near the bedside, and make sure to add medications you take to your emergency kit.

According to Davis, keep your emergency supplies in a container that can be moved if necessary.

“Many people use a large suitcase with wheels or a garbage can with wheels,” she says. “The kit should be stored near an exterior wall, and preferably near a door so it is easy to grab on the way out. Never store kits in basements.”

It’s also a good idea to keep a kit in the car, or a trailer if you have one, and to keep a flashlight and sturdy pair of shoes by your bed, she says.

“In earthquakes, the first action you should take would be protective action – drop, cover and hold on,” Davis says. “In other situations, you should stay informed about the situation and follow directions from emergency personnel.”

Generally the Red Cross responds to home fires, wildfires and other situations that may cause people to be displaced from their homes, she adds.

“People who are prepared are able to respond to emergencies more calmly and rationally than many others,” Davis says. “Creating and practicing a plan ahead of time ensures that decisions are logical and that all household members know where to go and how to get back in touch with each other after an emergency.”

The Willamette Red Cross Chapter, serving Lincoln, Marion and Polk counties, offers classes and emergency preparedness presentations that can be scheduled for any type of organization, including schools, businesses, neighborhood associations and faith-based organizations. Adults can take “Together We Prepare,” a 30- to 60-minute presentation touching on disasters that can occur in your geographic area and the three essentials of being informed, making a plan and building a kit. Also, an outreach booth can be scheduled for a community fair or event.

If you are unable to attend a free class or schedule a presentation, the Red Cross offers a library of resources to get you prepared, including an online resource emergency preparedness resource guide that includes sections for seniors and pets, what you need to know about utilities and safe water, as well as how to make a plan and prepare an emergency kit. Also online is the Red Cross store for preparedness supplies, a disaster and safety library, information on types of emergencies, and map, weather and hazard catalogs.

Additionally, you can put disaster preparation in the palm of your hand by downloading the Red Cross’ free earthquake app. Text “GETQUAKE” to 90999 or search “Red Cross Earthquake” in the Apple App Store or Google Play. Other apps include first aid, wildfire, flood, hurricane, tornado and shelter finder.

“Our website has a lot of great information as does and FEMA’s website,” Davis says. “Your local city and county emergency management agencies also have websites with information specific to your area.”

For more information, visit or call 503-585-5414.


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