By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
As we move into hurricane season and edge towards winter storm season, it is important to prepare for emergencies that could arise. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians joins the State of North Carolina in recognizing September as both North Carolina Preparedness Month and National Preparedness Month.
“Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to think about the following situations and plan just in case,” said Mollie Grant, EBCI Emergency Management program manager. “Consider the following questions when making a plan:
- How will my family/household get emergency alerts and warnings?
- How will my family/household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?
- How will my family/household get in touch if cell phone, internet, and landline doesn’t work?
- How will I let loved ones know I am safe?
- How will my family household get to a meeting place after the emergency?”
Abby Smith, MPH, is the preparedness coordinator with the Tribe’s Public Health and Human Services Public Health Preparedness Office. “We can help assist with any emergency situation, but we primarily focus on public health such as disease outbreaks, prevention of and responding to a flu epidemic, foodborne diseases, human or naturally-caused agents like anthrax…”
“We can help make sure that you, as an individual, at work, at home, and with your family, have a preparedness plan in place or have the appropriate things you need during disasters.”
Smith said every family should have an emergency kit and a plan of where to meet with your family members if you should get separated during an emergency.
Grant noted that every family should have an emergency kit containing the following:
- Water, one gallon per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries for both
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
- Blankets, lots of clothing, foot and hand warmer packs, extra hats, socks and mittens
- Any necessary medications
- Pet supplies, litter and water for your pet to drink
Smith said that as winter approaches, her office will begin a campaign of disseminating information on the flu and ways to aid with prevention. She added that overall health will aid in prevention. “Keep your immune system up so you’re not as susceptible.”
Grant encourages everyone to winterize their home before the weather turns bad. “Protecting your house and outbuildings from the cold can save you a lot of money and hassle down the line. Insulate walls and attics, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows and install storm windows or cover windows with plastic.”
She added, “Clear rain gutters and repair roof leaks in order to avoid clogging and flooding. Cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm. If necessary, hire a contractor to check the structural strength of the roof. Make sure your roof can sustain the unsually heavy weight of snow or water. Insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.”
Grant also encourages everyone to invest in a carbon monoxide detector. “If you ever need to run a gas stove inside your home for heat and cooking, you’ll definitely want a carbon monoxide detector on hand. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, but deadly.”
Grant also said it is important to know the different kinds of weather notifications including:
- Winter Storm Outlook – winter storm conditions possible in 2-5 days
- Winter Weather Advisory – winter weather conditions expected to “cause significant inconvenience and may be hazardous”, usually not life-threatening
- Winter Storm Watch – winter storm conditions possible in 36-48 hours
- Winter Storm Warning – Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will start in 24 hours, take precautions immediately
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, North Carolina had 36 tornadoes, 514 severe thunderstorms, 172 hailstorms (hail at least one inch in diameter), and 50 flash floods in 2014.
“Emergency preparedness should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, especially during peak hurricane season,” said N.C. Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry.
Governor Pat McCrory said in a statement, “Now is the time to get your emergency kits together, talk with your family and practice what to do when an emergency strikes.”