Ric Llewellyn

Friday, Dec 27 2013 03:00 PM

RIC LLEWELLYN: We all must prepare for short- and long-term disasters

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    Californian contributing columnist Ric Llewellyn.

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By Ric Llewellyn

Are you ready to take care of yourself and your family in a disaster scenario?

Just think about it. Here in Kern County, we are at risk for earthquakes, a dam break and petroleum processing accidents. Even the impacts of your not-so-exotic power outage like the one that affected nearly 30,000 homes and businesses last week could be exacerbated by a lack of preparation.

While the authorities in Kern County plan, prepare and practice for the disasters that could disrupt our community, no one can better prepare for your needs than you.

I watch Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel. There, I said it. And regardless of what you might think of the doomsday scenarios for which the preppers are prepping, they have taken complete responsibility for themselves and their families in case of a dire emergency.

If there were an earthquake that knocked out power and communication for three or four days, what would you do? If it made your home uninhabitable, how would you respond? If grocery stores were not resupplied, would you still be able to feed your family for a week or two with no assistance?

Many of us are ill-prepared and would find ourselves at the mercy of state or federal disaster relief programs. In many situations that would be adequate.

Back in the late 70s, my wife and I found ourselves stuck in Ventura cut off from returning home by flooding. A shelter had been opened at a high school and she and I spent the night there. As it turned out, we were back on the road the next day only a little worse for wear.

It was an exciting little adventure for a young couple with no kids or pets. But even so I can see how it would have deteriorated quickly over two or three days into quite a hardship. So a generic short-term response will probably be good enough if the "disaster" is moderate and of a short duration.

We should all prepare for a significant disaster.

How long should we prepare for? Three days? Two weeks? Some neighborhoods struck by Hurricane Sandy were out of power and other utilities for a month!

You know best where you and your family are most vulnerable. If you have family members who rely on prescription medications, making sure you have a back-up supply of your prescription drugs is essential. Talk to your medical professional about the best way to do that.

Plan for your food and water needs. Most of us can get by in a bind with the most basic food. You may have special needs in your family. It may take some research to find sources of special foods suitable for long-term storage, but it will be worth the effort if you need it.

Shelter, safety and security are important for all of us in a crisis. The best thing to do might be to leave. Set up a plan to stay with relatives or friends outside the southern San Joaquin Valley region for a few days. That will give you time to follow-up with insurance claims and other administrative tasks without worrying about daily survival as well.

Conditions might require that you stay in town. Make sure you have suitable shelter if your home is uninhabitable and take reasonable and appropriate steps to secure your property and your family as you wait for utilities and services to be restored.

The idea that is hardest for me to embrace is having a long-term plan. Doomsday preppers have seed stores, greenhouses, menageries and more as they anticipate delays in the restoration of life as they knew it.

While it might be difficult to imagine a scenario like that striking Kern County, we don't have to look far to see places where a long-term plan would have been helpful. The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina left parts of New Orleans devastated for years.

We have learned from past disasters. Our responses are more timely and relevant. And yet they are generic and potentially inadequate. We are the most knowledgeable about our particular needs. We can set up a disaster preparedness plan that really suits our specific situations.

In Kern County we can sign up for ReadyKern emergency notifications. In case of a crisis, ReadyKern will notify you of the potential safety concern and follow-up with further information if appropriate. Google "ReadyKern."

The state and federal governments have preparedness websites that will help you plan and prepare for an emergency here in Kern County. BePreparedCalifornia.ca.gov and Ready.gov are the web addresses.

If nothing else, I hope you will start to think about your disaster plan. Then take one step to cover the place where you and your family are most vulnerable. Don't wait.

-- Ric Llewellyn is a community columnist whose work appears in The Californian's Local section every third Saturday. Email him at llewellyn.californian@ gmail.com. These are Llewellyn's opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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