EDITOR’S NOTE: The North Lincoln Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) works to help the community be prepared for disasters and various emergencies. One concern often heard is how overwhelming it seems to take all the steps needed to be prepared for a disaster. To address that issue North Lincoln CERT has embarked on a 52-Week Personal Preparedness Challenge.

In the news recently have been stories about severe flooding in Louisiana, where tens of thousands have had to be evacuated or rescued from rising floodwaters from a rare and unseasonably intense rainstorm.  There are many lessons we could take away from this event: that natural disasters can happen anywhere at any time, that even though they are unpredictable, it is possible to be prepared with some advance planning, and that waiting until the last minute is too late.

If you got the call to evacuate right now, would you be ready?  Would you have your emergency plan, your go kit, and the necessary supplies to make sure you and your household could respond effectively and safely in an emergency?  That’s what this series is about, being ready no matter what or when.

Appropriately, the preparedness topic for this week is sanitation.  Louisiana is experiencing severe flooding which means that clean water is nowhere to be found; sewage, oil, and toxic chemicals are all mixed together in a dangerous stew that surrounds and saturates everything.  It is in these conditions that disease and water-borne pathogens can create havoc on community health, and can even be deadly.

Be sure your go kit has sanitation supplies to help sanitize people and surfaces, and manage waste.  Have disposable gloves in your kit, both the nitrile surgical gloves and heavy-duty rubber gloves.  If you have to scrub mud and sludge off of surfaces, you will want something heavy duty to protect yourself with.  Include one gallon of unscented bleach, which, besides being a surface disinfectant, can be used to sanitize water for drinking.  Stock pre-moistened towelettes and alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your kit as well.

Your 5-gallon bucket should include several heavy-duty garbage bags and plastic ties.  Should water and sewer services go out, do not use indoor plumbing.  Instead, line a 5-gallon bucket with a heavy duty garbage bag and use it as your toilet, covering the waste with wood chips, bark dust, sand or dirt to reduce odor, and tie the bag securely to keep flies away.  All waste should be disposed of in a garbage bag and stored until public utilities resume.

For personal cleanliness, add a small bottle of dish soap and/or mild hand soap to your main kit, and have a zippy bag with washcloth and towel for each household member.

Maintaining personal cleanliness and general sanitation during an emergency is vital for personal health as well as community health, controlling the spread of diseases.  Taking simple steps today may save lives tomorrow.

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