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The disaster playing out in Texas following Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey is serving as a reminder about the importance of having an emergency kit ready for your family.
The head of FEMA said Sunday the response to this event will take years. In the short-term, however, the focus will be on rescuing and supplying residents with what they need to stay alive.
Emergency responders used to say three days of supplies was what you needed in case of a major earthquake, storm, or other massive disaster. Now, it's two weeks. That's partly because the government needs that time to mobilize.
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Jeff Guite does emergency kits for a living. He's the president of American Preparedness in Tukwila. He says his company has already received orders from individuals wanting to send supply kits to loved ones in the Harvey region.
Guite said Sunday he had not yet received requests from the government for Harvey, but that it's likely to happen after a full assessment of the need is conducted.
Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Guite said the federal government requested more than a million kits to send down to New Orleans in the first two weeks after the storm -- a daunting task as all those items are not just sitting in a warehouse ready to go.
The change to "two weeks ready" was fairly recent. It came after the June 2016 Cascadia Rising drill which tested the Pacific Northwest's ability to not only survive but recover from a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and resulting tsunami.
While three days may get you to more supplies or a safer location, it won't sustain you.
"Three days is good for your average, run of the mill flood event or road closed or big landslide," Emergency response expert Eric Holdeman said. "For a big regional disaster, and that would be an earthquake here (in the Pacific Northwest), you need to be thinking about two weeks and not three days."
Scott James, the author of Prepared Neighborhoods, says he uses the Rule of threes as his guideline.
"The human body can survive for only three hours if we get cold and wet, so it's key within the first three hours to get yourself dry and then warm and stay that way," said James.
The second rule of three is water. The human body can't survive more than three days without water.
"And three weeks without food, albeit uncomfortably," said James.
Massive military response can be days away because personnel needs to be recalled and supplies need to be obtained. That means residents will be on their own.
"I've been in enough disasters and seen all the smug people that were smug before the disaster looking pretty helpless and pretty embarrassed when their families aren't prepared. It's no joke," Guite told KING 5 back in May.
Guite says it's like buying insurance. You may never have to use the disaster kit, but you build it anyway for peace of mind.
Unlike a hurricane that you can see coming, an earthquake or tsunami is what Holdeman calls a "come as you are event" -- you're either ready or you're not. There's no getting ready after the fact.
Here is the minimum of what you should have in your one-person, three-day kit. Add more for every person your kit needs to cover. Add even more than that if you're expanding to 14 days. And don't forget about infants (diapers and formula) and pets (food). Make it portable if you can, such as in a backpack, and keep it behind your seat in your car.
* Water (one gallon per day, if you can. If you can't, you can buy bottles or straw that filter water, or buy water purification tablets)
* Food (If canned, make sure to have a can opener). You can also get freeze-dried food or Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).
* Hand-cranked AM/FM radio. Better yet, a NOAA weather radio. You'll need this for information -- don't assume wireless networks that your phone uses will be functioning.
* Flashlight and extra batteries
* A Swiss Army Knife or something similar in case you need to do some cutting
* First aid kit (and get training on how to use it)
* Medications and eyewear
* Whistle to signal for help (your voice will give out after two hours of yelling)
* Lighter or waterproof matches
* Cash (ATMs and credit card machines may be down)
* Dust mask to help filter contaminated air (An N95 mask is suggested. Although more expensive than a typical face mask, it protects from 95 percent of particulates.)
* Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
* Emergency sleeping bag -- they're $5 and can fold up tight enough to fit in your pocket. They aren't comfortable, but they'll help keep you warm.
* Tarp/plastic sheeting and duct tape to make a shelter or a non-contaminant room.
* Local map
* Deck of cards to keep your sanity
Join KING 5’s Disaster Preparedness Facebook group and learn how you and your community can get ready for when disaster strikes.
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