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Be disaster ready

Are you ready to survive in the event of a disaster?

We’re not talking about having to rebuild our fallen society with a toothpick and a pair of pliers, no “Zombies,” not even “Mad Max.”

Disaster survival is about being able to hunker down, or if you have to, flee from danger and keep yourself and your loved ones going for three days. That’s the amount of time the federal and state governments and groups like the American Red Cross say it should take for at least minimal help to arrive in the event of a catastrophe.

Our winters regularly strike with a series of snowstorms paralyzing transportation, leaving passenger vehicles and 18-wheelers alike stranded on the highways for days. A big enough winter storm could break down the power grid and transportation system. A tornado could do the same.

And Indiana is not immune from earthquakes.

If that happened, where would you be? If you followed the advice of the Red Cross, CDC, state and federal Homeland Security departments and a number of other groups that worry about this sort of thing, you should be safe. Perhaps uncomfortable, but with good odds to survive.

And what if you have to evacuate?

Any one of those previously-mentioned disasters could force people out of their homes. In addition, something that many residents should be concerned about are rail and truck traffic that flow through the area.

Disaster planners will tell you that many times when planning for industrial incidents, the biggest concern is not a factory or plant itself, but materials moving in and out via rail and truck.

Many residents live within a block or two of railroad tracks. A derailment could force residents to evacuate within a few minutes or face serious injury or death.

Agencies like the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and the CDC recommend a four-point approach to disaster awareness.

Get a Kit: Sometimes referred to as a bug-out bag, go bag or GOOD (get out of Dodge) bag, it needs to include food and water (about one gallon per day per person) for three days. Medicine, clothing, a first-aid kit, knife and fire-starting equipment are also considered standard. While a serious survivalist or outdoors person could easily spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the latest and most expensive survival gear, the fact is most people have these things around their house. The problem is the items are scattered about and would be difficult if not impossible to gather together in case of an evacuation. Prepare a bag and have it in a closet near the door.

Make a Plan: If you have to evacuate, where will your family members meet and how will you communicate? Is there someone out-of-state that you can use as a central contact point in the case of a wide-spread emergency?

Be Informed: Is your home or office located in a flood plain? Will you know if a severe thunderstorm is headed your way in the middle of the night? What is the difference between a tornado watch and a warning? Do you know which neighbors with small children or other special needs family members might need help during a natural or manmade disaster?

Get Involved: Once you and your family are prepared for emergency situations, go out and teach someone about preparedness. Business and school officials should incorporate emergency plans into employee handbooks and standard curricula. Families should have preparedness meetings and form networks.

The information is out there along with everything you need. A good starting place would be the CDC at emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness, the American Red Cross at redcross.org/prepare or the Indiana Department of Homeland Security at in.gov/dhs.