By Barbara Lewis, Special to the Van Nuys News Press
A recent emergency preparedness survey shows that many in the Van Nuys area are unprepared for an emergency. The survey was conducted on August 2nd at the National Night Out event held by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys Division in the Plaza near the station. The results demonstrate the lack of knowledge that individuals have when it comes to disaster preparedness. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents did not have special items, such as prescription medicines, glasses or contact lenses, packed in an emergency bag.
In addition, one-third did not have a basic first aid kit. When putting together an emergency bag, it should hold a change of clothes, up-to-date prescription medicines, a spare set of glasses and/or contact lenses. A basic first aid kit should also be included in the bag, containing assorted bandages, sterile gauze, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors and alcohol wipes or another cleansing agent. Sunscreen, a thermometer and antibiotic ointment are also good additions.
Over-the-counter medications, including aspirin or non-aspirin pain relievers; anti-diarrheal medicine, and antacids, should be on hand as well. Although 60% of those surveyed said that they had a plan in place in the event of a disaster, half of all respondents did not have an out-of-state contact for all family members to check-in with in case of an emergency. Although phone systems for local calls may be overloaded, long-distance phone lines may be available prompting experts to recommend an out-of-state contact for family members to call regarding their whereabouts and condition.
Nearly half of all respondents also did not have a set of heavy gloves to remove dangerous items that may impede their escape route or a battery-operated AM/FM radio to learn about official notices and monitor area status. Respondents also commonly overlooked a seven-day water and food supply of non-perishable items, the new recommendation, which has replaced a three-day supply. One-third of respondents also lacked basic CPR training, which, in an emergency, can mean the difference between life and death. Nearly one-third of those surveyed did not know how to turn of the main gas, electricity and water lines if necessary.
In case of an earthquake or fire, turning off these systems can prevent further destruction. Valuable items to protect are important documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, passports, etc. These items should be kept within water- and fire-repellant containers. Over half the respondents did not have these items in protective cases. Although no one likes to think about a disaster, our location near fault lines cautions us to be prepared.
By learning what areas and items are commonly overlooked, individuals can better plan and prepare themselves for a disaster. For more information on how you can prepare for an emergency, go to www.fema.gov. (Barbara Lewis is a member of the Community Police Advisory Board where she heads the Emergency Preparedness Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.)