Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image

DHS news release

This guest opinion is by Grant Higginson, M.D., state public health officer in the Oregon Department of Human Services.

For a photograph of Dr. Higginson, contact Bonnie Widerburg, (503) 731-4180, email bonnie.l.widerburg@state.or.us

Length: 523 words

Preparing an emergency kit doesn’t have to be complex and it may save your life

By Grant Higginson, M.D.

September marks the end of summer vacation and the time when families get back to regular schedules and timelines. At our house, it means helping kids adjust to school routines, classes and homework. It’s also time to prepare for the change in seasons. With winter right around the corner, there are plenty of maintenance chores to do.

This year I’ve added a new task to the autumn regimen: I’ll be checking and restocking our three-day emergency kit. Do you have one in your house?

Emergency responders have long recommended that families prepare for survival in the face of a natural disaster. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, the advice has taken on a new dimension. Yet a recent Red Cross nationwide survey showed that only 42 percent of Americans have developed an emergency kit. Even fewer, 32 percent, have created a family emergency plan.

Whether it’s a flood, earthquake or terrorism, your survival and that of your loved ones may depend on how prepared you are. Experts advise that you should be able to make it on your own for at least three days.

The first step is to assemble an emergency kit. Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be -- you can make your preparations as simple or elaborate as you choose.

At a minimum, however, your emergency kit should contain:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • One gallon of water per person per day
  • Canned and dried foods that are easy to store and prepare. Be sure to include a manual (non-electric) can opener!
  • Prescription medicines
  • First aid kit
  • Personal items such as extra eye glasses, contact lenses, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Change of clothing
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sanitation articles such as garbage bags, toilet paper, towelettes, disinfectant and chlorine bleach

The second step is to develop a family communication plan, because you may not be together when a disaster or attack occurs. Be sure you all know contact numbers and agree that everyone will call a specific out-of-state relative. Keep a list of emergency numbers by the phone.

There are additional things you can do that may benefit beyond your family:

  • Know where to turn off utilities, such as natural gas
  • Take a first aid and CPR case so you are able to provide emergency help
  • Make a list of elderly family members, neighbors or others with special needs who you may need to check on.

All of this preparation may sound daunting. For some of us, disaster or a terrorist attack is not something we really want to think about. But it could make a critical difference sometime in the future.

Once you’ve got a basic emergency kit assembled, it becomes a simple matter of periodically rechecking and restocking your supplies. Perhaps you, too, can add it to your list of fall-time tasks.

The federal Office of Homeland Security has full details on how to prepare at its Web site. The American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter, in the business of disaster preparedness and recovery for years, has complete instructions on disaster preparedness on its Web site.


Grant Higginson, M.D., is State Public Health Officer in the Oregon Department of Human Services. One of his tasks is to oversee the department’s bioterrorism and public health emergency preparedness program.