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How to prepare for a natural disaster

Canadian Pacific
via Flickr

Living in upstate New York brings with it a variety of weather -- and natural disasters, like blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes or flooding. This week on WRVO's health and wellness show "Take Care,” hosts Lorraine Rapp and Linda Lowen have part two of their conversation with Commisioner Jerome Hauer of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, who outlines what residents can do to prepare themselves for a weather emergency.

Lorraine Rapp: No matter where one lives there’s always a chance something may happen weather related or otherwise that might necessitate living out of your home for a week or two with no additional resources. What should a person always keep on hand to help get them through such an emergency?

Hauer: It’s absolutely critical that people are prepared to either be isolated in their home or to be evacuated or forced to evacuate and to be able to live outside their primary residence for seven to 10 days. It’s our recommendation that people do planning for seven to 10 days. By planning, I mean, having medication for seven to 10 days; critical papers on hand that are in plastic so if their home is destroyed they have copies of their insurance,  their birth certificate, their passport and wedding certificate. Anything that’s an absolutely critical piece of paper that helps them identify themselves, prove their insurance, prove who they are, expedites getting them the resources they need from the federal government and the state. We also recommend that people have enough canned food, bottled water, flashlights that work. A radio is absolutely critical; a hand-cranked radio so you don’t have to worry about batteries. And some of the hand-cranked radios also have flashlights. Some of them even have USBs so when the cell towers are backed up or they move to an area with cell, they can charge their cellphones by just cranking the radio. They’re a little more expensive; they’re well worth the cost. It’s also critical to have personal items -- diapers for a kid, a change of clothes, dust masks, things like glow lights, so you can signal where you might be.

Linda Lowen: A lot of this is persuading people, in essence, to be prepared for an extreme emergency. How do you do so in a way that is meaningful and will get them to act but doesn’t necessarily scare them?

Hauer: There’s a balance you strike. Sometimes a little push towards the more aggressive approach is helpful. Their lives depend on it. One of the biggest problems in this country and we see it with every disaster is complacency. You go through Hurricane Sandy, everybody decides to get prepared. They have their disaster kit, they have their go kit, they have their water. You go into the home four, five years later, the water’s expired, their go kit is nowhere to be found, their batteries are dead and their papers are lost. It’s a constant reinforcing of the message so that people don’t become complacent.

More of this interview can be heard on "Take Care," WRVO's health and wellness show Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Support for this story comes from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.