If it’s an emergency, would you be ready?

Posted Sept. 27, 2009, at 8:11 p.m.

The longtime Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” is apt advice at any time. It may be especially sound in the wake of a swine flu pandemic and as we head into winter.

These factors, plus the usual concerns posed by natural disasters and other unforeseen events, made a recent publication most welcome. “Maine Prepares” was a supplement prepared by the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Bangor Daily News. It was published in the BDN and in other major papers last weekend.

It was the fourth year MEMA created such a supplement. This one, running 16 pages, is filled with information we should all consider taking to heart in an effort to protect ourselves and our most valuable possessions.

“Maine Prepares” has several recommendations: make a disaster kit; have a disaster plan; stay informed about situations that may create emergencies; and have sound communications plans when usual means may be disrupted.

The disaster kit consists of essential items you could grab on a moment’s notice if you had to leave your home. Food, water, blankets, radio, flashlight, batteries and personal items are among the things most of us would think of. How about a manual can opener? That electric model won’t be of much use if the power is out.

Wrap all the items in re-closeable plastic bags, to keep water out. You can pack it all in a duffel bag, backpack or plastic tote, or something else you can grab and carry away in a hurry. Include the items from your financial first-aid kit, which should include photocopies of your most important personal and financial paperwork.

Your disaster plan lets you decide how best to escape from your home. MEMA suggests finding at least two ways out of each room. Designate two meeting places, one just outside your home, the other somewhere else, in case it’s not safe to stay nearby.

On the subject of disaster plans, it’s good for parents to know which plans are in place at their children’s schools. Visit the school’s Web site or call the school to request a copy. Work the school’s plan into your family’s emergency preparations.

You’ll want to have emergency contacts outside the immediate area of your home. If you have the phone numbers of primary and secondary contacts (in case the primaries are not home) shared with your family, then during a disaster everyone will know whom to call. If you have emergency contacts only close to home, they may be dealing with the same situation you’re facing.

The guide also outlines the differences between H1N1 (swine) flu and seasonal influenza viruses. It lists Web sites and phone numbers for further information on these and a number of other topics.

The guide is available through the Maine Emergency Management Agency’s Web site, www.MainePrepares.com. It also may be accessed here.

MEMA has a limited number of copies, which can be requested through its Web site or by phone at 800-452-8735. A MEMA official we spoke with said she is working to get a copy into as many of Maine’s public libraries as possible.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or e-mail contacexdir@live.com.

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