Guide helps people prepare for the worst

July 13, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

As far as crises go, Y2K fizzled.

But now, with terrorism a looming threat, many people are back to preparing for the worst.

Recognizing the need for simple, straightforward survival tips, American Red Cross volunteer Curt Bury of Shepherdstown, W.Va., created an all-purpose guide to emergencies - before, during and after.

The state of West Virginia's Office of Emergency Services has adopted the guide and is distributing an estimated 400,000 copies to the state's 55 counties starting this month.

Bury said it is apparently the first comprehensive booklet of its type in the nation. Other states are welcome to use it as a model, he said.


The guide has been available for two or three weeks on the Internet at (click on "Getting ready" on the first page, then again on the second page).

Gov. Bob Wise is expected to launch a campaign to promote the guide in the next few weeks.

Jefferson County Project Impact, a group that works on disaster planning and education, is also publicizing the guide.

People should plan for even simple emergencies, such as storms or power outages, said Barbara Miller, the Project Impact coordinator.

"Sometimes, it's five minutes that make a difference," said Jefferson Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer John Sherwood, who is with both Project Impact and the American Red Cross.

Bury compiled the first version of the guide three years ago when the possibility that computers would shut down on Jan. 1, 2000, created a national scare.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the guide was revised to include information on current fears - terrorism and biological agents.

"We knew this kind of information needed to be updated and brought forward," said Bury, who is retired after 40 years with IBM.

Much of the information in the guide has been available before, but in separate books or sources, and it isn't always clear, Bury said.

Gathering bits and pieces from American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency publications, Bury edited a 40-page guide that advised people how to prepare for snow and ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods and Y2K.

The booklet, an American Red Cross project, was supported by advertising. About 10,000 copies were printed and passed out.

The new 32-page guide, "Getting Ready," has neither ads nor references to Y2K.

It reinforces common sense ideas, such as checking smoke detectors to make sure they work.

Other tips are less obvious. For example, an emergency water supply should be stored in a cool, dark place in clean plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. It should be replaced every six months.

In a pinch, clean water can be found in the reservoir tank (back) of the toilet, but not the bowl, the guide explains.

Other tips include: Store copies of important documents in a safe deposit box or with friends; try e-mail when phone lines are clogged; and keep at least half a tank of gas in the car at all times.

There is a checklist of supplies for a home emergency kit and an evacuation emergency kit.

One section tells people what to do about pets, which are not allowed at Red Cross shelters.

Another section talks about keeping children informed.

"Be calm and reassure children that they are safe," the guide says. "Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives."

Other tips examine the psychological aspects of disaster.

"Terrorist goals are to destabilize government and panic citizens," one section says. "They try to keep us guessing about what might happen next, increasing our worries."

To reduce anxiety, the public should be informed and prepared, the guide advises.

Bury said the guide is written at a sixth-grade level. A Jefferson County teacher proofread it for simplicity.

Cartoons are sprinkled throughout the guide "to make it fun to read," Bury said.

The last page lists emergency police, health, fire, rescue and shelter phone numbers for the county in which each guide is distributed.

The Herald-Mail Articles