Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2003

County official: Prepare your family for terrorism

March 19, 2003

These days nobody's hazarding a guess as to whether terrorism could happen in the Midwest.

But Chuck Magaha, Leavenworth's County director of emergency preparedness, said, just in case it does, everyone should be ready.

In recent weeks, Magaha has seen extremes of how county residents are, or aren't, preparing for a disaster.

"An elderly couple asked me to come down and see if they were prepared," Magaha said. "They'd taken one entire room of their home and turned it into a stockpile."

The couple was set up with a Coleman grill, lanterns, food and medical supplies, Magaha said.

"They do take it seriously," he added.

And, on the other hand, Magaha said, there are those who have done nothing to prepare.

Magaha's advice is basic -- to have enough water, food, medications and other necessities to last a family at least three days.

"We're not telling people to dig a hole in the backyard and hunker down and take all your food and belongings down there," Magaha said. "But we are asking that people look at 72 hours in the event that something should happen. They're going to have to fend for themselves, they'll need water, food and personal items for the immediate family."

Water important

Magaha said he's noticed reports in recent broadcasts that shelves in Iraqi grocery stores are empty.

"If somebody is going to need supplies in Iraq right now, they're going to be hard to come by," Magaha said. "So until food is replenished they're going to have to fend for themselves in their household."

In the event of terrorism, or fears about possible terrorism, a similar scenario could play out here, Magaha said.

Keeping water on hand is especially important, he added. It's recommended that families stockpile three gallons of water per day for each person in the household.

Magaha has heard from one resident who's saving much more.

"A guy called and said, 'I have 55-gallon sterile drums I'm going to put water in, is that OK?'" Magaha said. "I said by all means that's OK if that's what you feel you're going to need."

So residents can be assured their water will be fresh, with no algae growing in it, Magaha recommends changing the water every 30 days. Store-bought water can be kept for up to six months, he said.

It's difficult for Americans, who have lived with available food and water, to grasp the possibility that food and water, as well as electricity, may become unavailable, said Magaha, who has been trying to get the word out as to the importance of being able to be self-reliant when necessary.

"We rely on them so heavily that when we're without them, we're lost, so it has to take a whole new train of thought to educate these people," Magaha said.

Also, Magaha said, residents need to keep their pets' needs in mind. Food and shelter should be arranged for them, along with the family.

And, livestock owners need to be aware of how they can best protect their animals.

"Maybe they should put their animals on the back of the property, instead of near the road," Magaha said.

Know where to meet

Likewise, families need to be aware of where other family members are. Magaha suggests that families establish a central contact point outside the area with whom family members can communicate.

Above all, Magaha's message is: Be prepared, because during an emergency, there will not be time for law enforcement to help people with the basics.

"We're just not going to be able to go out and do it for them," Magaha said. "We're not going to be able to go out and buy their family disaster kit, we're not going to be able to go out and put water in their shelters."

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