Preparedness: are you ready?

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- I've learned sometimes you have to deal with problems, and sometimes you have to deal with Alaskan-sized problems. We have all dealt with regular problems; driving your car on empty, running to the commissary moments before it closes or staying up late watching over a newborn. But Alaskan-sized problems aren't so easy to tackle.

Last week, a broken valve at the base water production facility here at Eielson, led to a leak that introduced an excessive amount of water conditioner into the base water supply.

The subsequent water advisory interrupted water service to the wing and base community for less than 24 hours. Thankfully, a quick response and cooperative community worked together to quickly resolve the issue and restore our water quality.

But what if the problem wasn't quickly resolved? Could you have sustained yourself or your family if the wing had lost water for 24 hours or more? What would you do if you had to react to a natural disaster, man-made disaster or worse?

In the wake of the recent water issue, I thought back to the advice the wing commander gave the audience at my Right Start briefing when I first arrived at Eielson:

He told us that a flat tire, electrical black-out or losing the heat to your house in the lower 48 states can be a mere inconvenience; but in Alaska it can prove fatal.

The wing commander's advice was clear and direct. It also helped many of us realize that we were living in region where nature and circumstance rarely reward the unprepared. The temporary water advisory also made me realize that contingencies won't always be as dramatic as an Arctic blizzard or violent earthquake.

Simply stated, don't wait for a crisis, prepare yourself now.

Most readiness experts agree that any disaster kit should contain enough supplies to sustain yourself and your loved ones for three days. Do you have enough supplies to handle three days on your own? Would you have enough water, medicine and food? Making plans and stocking your shelves now can help you weather any unexpected circumstances that might happen.

Furthermore, what about your car or truck? The same principles for preparedness apply when you are driving. A container with blankets, gloves, road flares, first aid supplies, or a portable stove would all be ideal for a roadside survival kit.

Disasters, contingencies and plain bad luck won't wait until you are fully prepared. Thankfully, last week's water issue was solved as quickly as it emerged. However, the next Alaska-sized problem might not be settled as easily, take the time now and prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

Considerations for all Military Personnel and Families:
· Every time you relocate, learn the types of emergencies likely to affect the area and update your emergency kit and plan with new materials if necessary.
· Be aware that mass warning systems differ at different locations. It could be a "Giant Voice" outside speaker, siren, telephone alert, or some other system or procedures.
· You may not have extended family nearby, so a rendezvous point or call-in contact after an emergency may require more ingenuity. Establish an emergency plan with an out-of-town contact you can all reach. Keep in mind that one or more family members may be deployed when disaster strikes.
· If you live off base, threat levels or other circumstances may keep you from getting back on base for day-to-day activities following an emergency. Know alternative places to shop or obtain things you normally get on base.
· Collecting and recording important personal and financial documents is already a part of preparing for deployment. Be sure to include these documents in your family's emergency kit.
· During or after an emergency, you need to report to your command. Learn and follow the established procedures.

Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
· Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
· Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
· Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
· Flashlight and extra batteries
· First aid kit
· Whistle to signal for help
· Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
· Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
· Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
· Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
· Local maps
· Cell phone with chargers

Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:
· Prescription medications and glasses
· Infant formula and diapers
· Pet food and extra water for your pet
· Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
· Cash or traveler's checks and change
· Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov
· Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
· Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
· Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper - When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
· Fire Extinguisher
· Matches in a waterproof container
· Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
· Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
· Paper and pencil
· Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Source for kits: www.ready.gov