Get a kit, make a plan and be informed

The American Red Cross responds during emergencies, whether it’s a single family disaster such as a fire or a widespread disaster such as a storm or flooding.  The Red Cross also wants to help before emergencies happen.

Pat O’Neil is a Red Cross volunteer, who is the Safe and Well Lead in the Virginia Mountain Territory Mass Care Team. 

“We’re very interested in preparing people to respond to emergencies,” says O’Neil.  “And a lot of times you can stay where you are.  Staying in your home, or wherever you are living, is called sheltering in place with your home not in 100% condition.  Meaning that you may not have electricity, you may not have water, you may have damage to the home.  But sometimes people prefer to stay there, rather than going to a shelter or someplace else.  And that’s sometimes fine.  It sort of depends on the amount of damage and whether you’re prepared to do that or not.”

And the Red Cross has the information on how you can prepare to do that and more.  There’s information available about preparing a kit for emergencies, whether you shelter in place or evacuate. 

You should have water, a gallon per person per day, with a three day supply for evacuation and a two week supply for home.  Non perishable food, again a three day supply for evacuation and a two week supply for home.  Also flashlights, a battery powered radio, extra batteries, medications, personal hygiene items and extra cash. 

“You also want to do things like copies of your important papers especially medications, your prescriptions, a supply of medications, proof of address,” says O’Neil.  “If you come to a Red Cross Shelter and we offer aid we need to verify who you are.  So we need something to verify your address and who you are.  Birth certificates, cell phones and cell phone chargers are good things to have handy.”

It’s also important to make a plan for your family to get out of your house.  Make a plan on where to meet if you get separated and choose a couple of different locations, one right outside your house and another outside of the immediate area. 

And it’s important to have a calling plan.  It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. 

“Plan who to call,” says O’Neil.  “Have a plan where somebody out of your disaster area, not somebody who lives next door, because they’re going to be part of the disaster.  But somebody, your Aunt Jane who lives in Ohio.  Give the phone number of everybody in the family to her and make sure she knows that people may be calling her.  And if you get separated which happens in a really big disaster often, families get separated or it happens during the day and somebody is at work and somebody is at school and they don’t get back together.  Everybody can call Aunt Jane and she will put them back together again.”

The Red Cross is also expanding it’s sheltering efforts based on experiences following Hurricane Katrina.

“I’m sure some of you saw the pictures of people on their rooftops clutching their cats and dogs saying, ‘No I’m not going to get in the boat without my cat or dog’, says O’Neil.  “So we recognize that this is a really important part of people’s lives and we need to make provisions for that.  So our shelters now, we’re trying to organize pet shelters close by.”

For much more information on disaster and emergency preparedness, visit

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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