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It pays to be prepared because we know what damage earthquakes can do. If you are a “prepper,” — that is, someone who is prepared for the possibility of disaster to strike – then you probably don’t mind spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on somewhat costly items in retail stores or catalogues. The City of Los Angeles’ Emergency Management Department provides a comprehensive list of items every household should have on hand to get through disasters that could curtail access to stores, money, and roadways at: www.readyla.org.

However, did you know that you could also put together your own emergency preparedness supplies with many items that you may already have, as well as inexpensive dollar store (or 99 cent store) items?

At a recent meeting of the Neighborhood Council Emergency Preparedness Alliance, Lorraine Curry, Battalion 13 Coordinator of CERT Battalion 13, pointed out how easy it is to make a solar oven out of a tin can with holes punched in it or by using a simple cardboard box lined with tin foil, topped with a piece of glass to cook or warm food in the sun.

Another simple invention that one could make is a porta potty using trash bags inside a 5-gallon bucket. For the toilet seat, you can use a flexible inflation device, like a child’s floatation device (used in a swimming pool) to line the edges or fashion something out of a piece of wood to sit on. (For those who prefer comfort, you can purchase a toilet seat from an emergency preparedness supplier for a marginal expense).

Important documents that you don’t want to lose (I.D. cards, passports, insurance papers, emergency phone numbers, banking or medical records, and photos of your pets or family members) should be double-bagged in a freezer bag and stored in your freezer. In the event of a fire or earthquake, a freeze will withstand a lot of damage and your documents will be maintained.

As far as items to stock in your car and home’s emergency bags, here are some common essential items: a first aid kit with gauze and bandages, candles and matches, sturdy gloves and boots, extra clothing, emergency supplies of food and water, trash bags and duct tape, toilet paper, blankets, medication, an emergency radio with extra batteries – or even better – one that can be cranked for power and does not require batteries, a lantern and flashlight, and tools such as a crowbar to open windows or doors, should they become stuck.

In addition to stocking up on food for yourself and your family, also have extra food and water on hand for your pets.

Now is the right time to secure any bookshelves or loose items on the wall so they don’t go airborne and hurt someone in a shaker. (Never hang heavy objects over your bed).

Keep a supply of small bills ready to use as stores will not have power to operate cash registers and having cash will be a life saver if you need more food or water. It’s generally suggested that individuals keep $300.00 on hand but for families, that could translate to $500.00 or more.

Always keep a half a tank of gas in your car as you might not be able to get gas in a crisis.

Hang a whistle on your keychain and use it if you need help. You have a better chance of being found by first responders if you can be located.

Hang any flashlights you have by a light switch so you can find them if the power goes out. And always check your batteries every few months to make sure they are working.

Continually rotate your emergency food every six months from your emergency supplies to your pantry. That way, whatever you purchase for an emergency or crisis is fresh and palatable. Power bars are inexpensive and last a long time but there are many items you can find at a dollar store that will contain preservatives and be useful in an emergency.

Finally, if an earthquake that strikes, there are two things that you should do:

1) If you smell gas and suspect a gas leak, turn off the gas.

2) Fill your bathtub with cold water so that you have water available, should the lines be contaminated.

3) If sewage seeps into your potable water, shut off the cold water valve by turning it clockwise until it goes off.

This is critical because after a shaker, sewer lines that are broken may feed contaminated water into your supply. If you shut off your water, you can always use the water in your hot water tank or in the back of your toilets as well as bottled water that you have stocked up on, previously.

Before the next disaster strikes, educate yourself about prepping and put together a family emergency plan so if you get separated from your loved ones, you have a designated third party contact or a meeting place. Here are some websites that you will find useful:

www.redcrossla.org, www.cert-la.com, www.valleydisasterfair.com, www.socal/prep.us.

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Pat Kramer, aka “Writer For Hire,” is a business writer, ghostwriter and marketing and publicity writer. For more information, please visit: www.writerpatkramer.com.