I have worked in the fire service in Southern Arizona for over 40 years. In that time, I have had the privilege to help people in their time of need. I have also observed many emergency situations that were mitigated by people’s efforts to be prepared. In some instances, emergencies are completely avoided because people took the proper steps to be informed and take action. Their preparedness made all the difference.
September is National Preparedness Month. Are you and your family prepared for a major disaster? There are many ways that you and your family can be better prepared for emergencies, but most people still confess that they have not taken the necessary steps to empower themselves with the essential materials needed to survive for up to 72 hours. Golder Ranch Fire District would like to charge the public with the task of creating a 72-hour preparedness kit for their families.
Items to pack in your 72-hour preparedness kit:
- Water (3 gallons per person to last 72 hours)
- Food (e.g. ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, infant food, pet food, etc.)
- First aid kit (e.g. bandages, anti-bacterial ointment, cold packs, antiseptic wipes, etc.)
- Medicine (e.g. prescription drugs, aspirin, anti-diarrhea medication, etc.)
- Tools and supplies (e.g. cups, plates, plastic utensils, battery powered radio and extra batteries, flashlight with extra batteries, scissors, etc.)
- Sanitation items (e.g. soap, toilet paper, garbage bags)
- Clothing and bedding (e.g. rain gear, hats and gloves, etc.)
- Baby items (e.g. formula, diapers, bottles, etc.)
In addition to creating a 72-hour preparedness kit, you can also do some additional tasks that will reduce your risk for injury or fire in your home. You should change your smoke detector batteries annually in every unit in your home. Smoke detectors are like your personal firefighter in your home, alerting you to the early stages of a fire so that you and your family can get out safely. The entire smoke detector device should be replaced every 10 years. Also, practice a home fire escape plan. This is something that you should do with every member of your household and make sure to include your pets as well. The home fire escape plan should involve a conversation about what steps you need to take if a fire occurs in the home, including staying low to the ground, crawling to a safe exit and getting out of the home and to a designated meeting place where you can call 911 and wait safely for first responders. This home safety drill is important for children so that they won’t hide or attempt to go back into the home for any of their prized possessions or pets.
There are steps you can take to increase the safety for the exterior of your home as well. You should clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves and debris that could catch embers and replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration. You can also reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing metal mesh screening. Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors such as mulch, flammable plants, leaves, firewood piles—anything that can burn. If you live in an area that is adjacent to wildland/open space, make sure you create a defensible space of at least 30 feet. A defensible space is where vegetation is kept to a minimum combustible mass. A guideline for this can be described as “low, lean and green.” Lastly, remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.
One final word of advice: Be sure to stay informed about emergency events happening in your neighborhood by signing up community emergency alert systems. For Oro Valley alerts, visit orovalleyaz.gov and search for CODE RED. For Marana alerts, visit maranaaz.gov and search for ALERTS. For Pima County alerts, visit pima.gov and search for MYALERTS.