Being prepared in advance is the best tool in an emergency. It helps take the fear out of unexpected situations and may allow you to help others. As massage therapists we learn a lot about health and wellness, and we get first aid training. Natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and forest fires make us aware of the need to know more, including how to protect our clients, families, and ourselves, and reduce the possibility of serious injury or even death.
What to Have on Hand
It is important to get together both a to-go kit and a stay-put kit for emergencies. The to-go kit is something light that you can locate and grab quickly in case you need to evacuate on short notice. The stay-put kit is a three-day supply of water, food and other necessities to help if you will be staying at home.
All the items in a to-go kit should be able to fit in a backpack or small rolling suitcase. It should be small and lightweight enough for anyone to carry easily and should be located in an easy place to find. Keep it filled with the supplies and check twice a year to make sure they work and have not passed expiration dates.
Some items to store in a to-go kit include:
- Drinking Water
- Food – energy bars or meals-ready-to-eat
- First Aid Kit
- Rain Poncho
- Sanitation Supplies – toilet paper, soap, etc.
- Portable Radio – battery or crank powered
- Extra Batteries
- Copies of Vital Documents – driver’s license, passport, insurance documents, medical information
- One Change of Clothing
- Blanket or Sleeping Bag
If you are staying at home during an emergency you should be prepared for a minimum of 72 hours. Emergency rescuers may not be able to reach you right away, but by three days’ time it is likely either the emergency is over or you will have been evacuated.
In addition to what is available in your to-go kit, make sure you have these items on hand for your stay-put kit:
- Water – It is advised that you have a minimum of one gallon of potable water per person, per day.
- Food – Enough non-perishable food (such as canned soups, canned vegetable and fruits, peanut butter, etc.) equaling approximately 2000 calories per person per day. Avoid food that will make you thirsty, requires refrigeration or needs a lot of preparation.
- Manual Can Opener – If your electricity is out and the only can opener you have is electric, there could be a problem!
- Telephone That Does Not Require Electricity – Most corded phones will still work if the electricity is out.
- Tools to Shut Off Water or Gas
If you go camping you may already have a means for cooking without your kitchen stove. Make sure you have enough charcoal, propane or other fuel on hand. Having a portable stove also means you will be able sterilize water by boiling it.
Remember to keep any important documents, such as insurance papers, medical information, financial records, etc. in a waterproof, fireproof container.
Make a Plan
Get together regularly with family, friends, neighbors and business associates to discuss emergencies that might happen and how you can prepare for them. Whether at home or in your office, you should make sure you have some sort of plan for letting others know you are safe.
- Choose a place to meet after a disaster. One should be near your home, and the other further away in case you cannot return to your neighborhood.
- Have an out-of-state contact, a friend or relative who you can call. Should you get separated, another person can be informed that everyone is OK and relay messages to the others.
- All household members should know where emergency plans and to-go kits are kept.
- Practice getting out of your home or office in emergency situations at least twice a year. Plan a primary evacuation route and an alternate route, and drive it several times under various conditions.
- If you don’t drive, learn what public transportation will be available in your community during emergency situations.
- Contact local officials to learn what plans are in force for emergency situations, such as shelter locations, evacuation plans, medical assistance, etc.
- Know what disasters are likely in your community. Some emergencies will affect only you and your family such as a home fire, while some will involve neighborhoods, towns or states – including floods and storms.
- Find out how local authorities will notify you during a major disaster. This might vary depending on if you live in an urban, suburban or rural area.
- Take a class in CPR, first aid or emergency preparedness. Many states require massage therapists to have training in CPR in order to qualify for licensing.
Volunteering to help is one of the best ways to learn and practice emergency preparedness. Organizations such as the Red Cross offer free training to volunteers. There are also government organizations such as the Citizens Corps and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) that are somewhat similar to what used to be the Civil Defense, and offer various courses of training in emergency preparedness.
There are also several websites that can connect you to volunteer opportunities both in the non-profit sector (www.volunteermatch.org and www.volunteersolutions.org) as well as government-sponsored venues (www.volunteer.gov and www.usafreedomcorps.gov).
Volunteering not only makes you feel better, but also connects you to your community and allows you to help others in a positive way.
These are just some of the things you can do to be prepared. For more detailed information, contact the Red Cross (www.redcross.org) or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov).
“Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness.” 22 August 2004. Department of Homeland Security. 19 Aug 2008 <http://www.fema.gov/areyouready>.
“Be Red Cross Ready” Pamphlet. May 2007. American Red Cross. 19 Aug 2008 ”
Spigarelli, Jack A. Crisis Prepareness: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival. 2nd. Alpine, Utah: Cross-Current Publishing, 2002.
Wiseman, John. SAS Survival Handbook. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.
Wiseman, John. SAS Urban Survival Handbook. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2008.