Friday, December 21, 2012

Ancient doomsday calendar highlights need for emergency preparedness

by Airman 1st Class Omari Bernard
JBER Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- With bated breath, people around the world stare at their televisions, search the internet and scan the heavens in search for signs of the end. Some cataclysmic calendar of a long-gone civilization foretold the end of the world. Yet nothing happens. Neither crisis caused by myth nor a conundrum begot by a rumor occurs. Though Twinkies are gone, the earth is still spinning and the sky is not falling.

With all the hype of Friday being the end of the world, it is important to ask yourself if this were a natural disaster, would you be prepared? Whether it's for the end of the world or a natural disaster, do you have the knowledge and supplies to hold out until aid arrives?

During the month of September, homes, trees and trampolines were damaged by hurricane-force winds that ravaged Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and surrounding communities. There were multiple power outages, which occurred for base residents and also the local communities. Some places went without power for more than 24 hours.

To help raise and spread awareness of natural disasters, JBER Emergency Management hosted a contest via Facebook to see how prepared the community was for the end of days and natural disasters in general.

"Out of 32 contestants, the winner and runners up of this competition put themselves above the rest by doing things such as simply stocking up on supplies to more complex things such as developing evacuation procedures for all scenarios," said Airman 1st Class Charles Anderson, an emergency manager with 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron. "The first place winner in the competition was Melissa Bechand."

When asked what motivated her to become so prepared, Bechand said, "After September's storm, we lost power for 24 hours. We looked around at the mess, particularly the downed tree that could have easily went through a window in one of the children's bedrooms, and decided we needed to take a more proactive approach to preparedness. We're not prepping for zombies or nuclear fallout, we're simply wanting to ensure that we can keep our kids warm, well fed, and above all, safe."

A few of the things Bechand did to ensure the safety of her family was to invest and stock up on non-perishables when they were on sale, a propane stove for when the power goes out for a long time, and battery-operated LED lights so she didn't have to worry about having open flames from candles around her children.

"Perhaps one of the most important things Melissa said she invested in was a safe propane heater for those cold winter nights," Anderson said.

Have a plan to take care of pets in case of the worst.

"If you have a family, pets, or even if you are by yourself, it is extremely important that you stay prepared," said Elizabeth Ross, the installation chief of planning and operations for Emergency Management. "For pets, it is important to have a their vaccination records if you plan to bring them to a shelter and to also provide them their own food."

"When it comes to post disaster and emergency, it is important to have a place where you can take pets," said Senior Airman Kelly Lasaine, 773rd CES emergency manager. "There is limited shelter and kennel space - especially on base and you're not going to mix people and animals."

While there is no limit to the amount or variety of items that can be bought and stocked up, there are a few key things that are critical. The most important: food and water. When shopping at the store, purchase non-perishable food items.

"Along with food, it is extremely important you have water," Anderson said. "It is recommended that for every day you could be trapped or until your utilities are back up and running, that you have one gallon per person per day. If you get a disaster warning and do not have enough time to run to the store, then fill your bathtubs and sinks with water so you know you will not have to go without."

As well as food and water, it is also highly recommended to have cash on

"After a disaster, it is very likely that you and the surrounding areas will be without electricity," Lasaine said. "If this is the case, then when you go to the store to purchase items you need, you will not be able to swipe your debit card to pay. Make sure you have a decent amount saved up, because there is no telling how long you may be without electricity.

"Being prepared for an emergency is not something that you can do at the last minute, and do not feel like your items have to be purchased all at once," he continued. "Build up your supplies over time, and becoming prepared will be inexpensive and stress free."

Have a plan. Unlike the Mayan end of the world, a natural disaster cannot always be predicted. It is always important to be prepared - whether it's for the end of the world or just a natural disaster.

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