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Stockpile supplies before hurricane threatens area
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippians learned the hard way last year that what they thought was enough supplies for a disaster was not.
When a storm approaches, those in the path can expect to see long lines at gas stations, a run on plywood, and stores sold out of bottled water, bread and batteries.
Last-minute preparations carried most people through the majority of storms in recent history. But last August, Hurricane Katrina showed the nation why it is important to truly stock up on supplies in advance and have a working family disaster plan.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and other authorities urge residents in storm-prone areas to maintain a disaster supply kit. Basics include a three- to five-day supply of non-perishable food and water; a first-aid kit with any needed prescription medications and eye care items; clothing, bedding and sanitation supplies; a battery-powered radio and flashlight, and extra batteries; copies of important documents; and cash and traveler's checks.
Herb Willcutt, safety specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said a normal person needs at least half a gallon of water a day for drinking. One case of bottled water should last one person for three to four days.
“If there are four people in your family, you should have at least four cases of water to have enough drinking water for three days,” Willcutt said.
Non-perishable foods are those that required no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests those that are compact and lightweight, avoiding those that make a person thirsty. Be sure to include a manual can opener with the food supplies.
A good disaster supply of food should include ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables; canned juices, milk and soups; sugar, salt and pepper; high-energy foods like peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix; vitamins; comfort foods like cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, instant coffee and tea bags; and foods for infants or those with special dietary needs.
Gwen Smith, Hancock County Extension director, urged those making disaster plans to think about all of a baby's needs.
“Anyone with a small child who is taking formula needs to make sure they have enough diapers, formula and water to mix it with, along with sterilized bottles,” Smith said. “After Katrina, many people found they had enough formula for their babies, but not enough water to dilute it with. Pre-mixed formula works well in these situations.”
Smith said that along with food and diapers for babies, don't forget pacifiers, toys, medications and changes of clothes.
FEMA urges residents to prepare this supply kit well before a storm threatens and to keep it in a designated, easily accessible place.
Smith went a step further and urged residents who may face an evacuation to prepare supplies for their vehicle, as well.
“You need to have things in your vehicle for use during an evacuation,” Smith said. “Many people got caught for hours and hours in their cars trying to evacuate from Katrina, and a lot of them didn't take food or water with them. There are certain things you need to keep in your car for use in the vehicle in route to where you are going.”
Prepare a list of important documents that should be taken with the family when evacuating. Those that remain should be stored in a bank box or other similarly protected place. These documents include driver's licenses, Social Security cards, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, property deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records and medical records.
Other important information that should be kept safely with the individual or family include credit card account numbers and issuing company information; photo identification cards; passports; an inventory of valuable household goods; and important telephone numbers.
The almost-universal use of cell phones aids communication after a storm. Smith said to forward home phones to cell phones before evacuating.
“Here in Hancock County, we were without land service for months, but we had cellular service back in two days,” Smith said.