Harvard Medical school offers family disaster planning guide

September 07, 2005

[Boston, Mass.] Like millions of others in this country, our thoughts are with the survivors of hurricane Katrina. We encourage you to contribute to the response in whatever way you can. No matter where you live in the United States, you are vulnerable to some sort of natural disaster such as a blizzard, earthquake, flood, hurricane, or tornado. In addition, terrorist attacks on America are also possible. Both natural disasters and terrorist attacks can disrupt power, communication, and transportation for days or even longer. It is best to be prepared in advance so that if a disaster occurs, you know what to do and have the supplies you need on hand. Regardless of the type of event, the three-step plan created by the editors of Harvad Health Publications at Harvard Medical School will help you cope.

You can download the 2-page plan for free at www.health.harvard.edu/disaster. Readers are also permitted and encouraged to share the plan with friends and family.
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Preparing for Disaster: 3 Step Plan

1) Collect disaster supplies
The devastating hurricane Katrina is graphic evidence of just how disruptive natural disasters can be. Those affected are without electricity, water, stoves, phone and even shelter. To be prepared, collect the following items and store them so that you can find them easily in an emergency -- but not so easily that you end up raiding and depleting the supplies without realizing it. Some people store these items in a section of the basement or a closet that is used infrequently. Decide what will work best for you.
Disaster-supply list Kits for sale
The American Red Cross sells first-aid kits and emergency preparedness kits for home use, and a basic disaster-supply kit especially designed for the workplace. Order online at www.redcross.org or obtain through your local Red Cross chapter.

2) Create a portable supply kit
In case you have to evacuate your home, it is good to put the supplies you think you would need the most in a portable container. Some people try to fit all of the supplies listed above in a large rolling trashcan with a lid or a large rolling cooler. Another option is to store the items in several small coolers or boxes. Think about what supplies you need, what you can reasonably carry or store in your car, and how many people will be available to help you transport the supplies.

3) Develop and practice an emergency plan
All the planning in the world won't do much good if you don't practice ahead of time. Not only does this enable you to go through your plan while you're calm and thinking clearly, but it also enables you to fine-tune it before you have to put it into action.
  • Practice the plan at least once a year.

    When disaster strikes
    • Listen for official news and instructions on what to do next.
    • Communicate with family members according to your plan.
    • If the disaster takes place near your home, follow instructions on whether to evacuate.
    • Check on neighbors, especially those who are elderly or have young children.
    • If you have gas appliances such as a stove or water heater, smell for gas leaks. Do not light matches, candles, or turn on electrical switches if you smell gas. Open windows and doors and leave the house immediately.
    Your first-aid kit
    Minor injuries can be treated at home if you have the right supplies on hand. You can purchase most of these items at your local pharmacy or supermarket, and then place them in a sealed container to keep them clean. A fishing tackle box, for instance, would work well as a first-aid kit. Remember to store your first-aid kit in a location you can reach quickly in an emergency.

    Wound care
    • One roll of absorbent cotton
    • Gauze pads (4 inches square)
    • Adhesive tape (1 inch and narrower)
    • Adhesive bandages in various sizes
    • Butterfly bandages
    • Wound cleansers (soap, gels, or wipes)
    Medications
    • Analgesic, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (adult and child) or aspirin (for adult use only)
    • Antihistamine for allergic reactions
    • Antiseptic ointment or cream (such as bacitracin or triple antibiotic ointment)
    • Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream (1%)
    • Activated charcoal for inadvertent overdoses
    • Saline eye drops
    • Antacid for stomach upset
    • Antidiarrheal medication
    • Oral glucose preparation for low blood sugar
    Other supplies
    • Ace bandages
    • Cold/hot packs
    • Cotton swabs
    • Flashlight
    • Scissors and safety pins
    • Surgical gloves (disposable)
    • Thermometer
    • Tweezers


    Harvard Medical School

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