The chaos experienced by victims of Superstorm Sandy is being held up as a cautionary tale to local residents to prepare themselves in case an earthquake or any other natural disaster, hits the West Coast.
Officials from the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services held a news conference on Thursday to encourage the public to prepare and maintain emergency-survival kits to be used in the event of an earthquake, flood or fire.
"The more people who can stay home and be self-reliant in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the fewer people will have to enter what we call 'the victim system' — leaving their homes and going to a shelter to get aid — because they don't have power," said Sidney Reade, emergency services planner for the county.
"People who don't have a home because of damage from the earthquake are true victims, and hopefully we would have enough resources to serve those people," she said. "But if everybody leaves their home because they don't have power, or because they haven't built their survival kits, we simply won't have enough resources."
Linell McCray, the county's public health preparedness coordinator, said she built an emergency kit for her family — her disabled husband, herself and her dog — four years ago, before she became an employee of the Office of Emergency Services. She has since built a second kit.
"My epiphany actually came from the way my mother prepared to take care of my grandmother, who lived to be 100 years old," McCray said.
"My realization was that I also had a responsibility to my husband, who is 100 percent disabled with back injuries he suffered in Vietnam," she said.
McCray started by purchasing the largest rolling trash barrel she could find, then filling it with items her family might need during a natural disaster: 20 gallons of water, nonperishable foods, a can opener, dog food, various sizes of zip-lock bags, extra clothing, sleeping bags, a flashlight, extra batteries, toilet paper, wipes, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and other basic needs.
She changes the items every year — the same day she adjusts her clocks for the time change — replacing food, batteries, water and other items that grow old and expire.
"I asked a friend from the Red Cross to look at my kit and criticize it," she said. "That's actually when I added things like dog food and toilet paper and other items I had overlooked before. We were going to give our old iPad away when we got a new one, but decided instead to add it to the kit, along with chargers."
Another tip offered by McCray is to communicate in advance with neighbors and create a network of people who are willing and prepared to help each other when needed.
"The items in your kit should be personalized to your family's needs," Reade said. "You want to build a kit that will allow your family and your pets to be as comfortable as possible."
Kits should be designed to accommodate the family's needs for about two weeks — the average time a neighborhood could be without power during a major disaster.
For information, see www.co.monterey.ca.us/oes and click on "Emergency Planning."
Dennis Taylor can be reached at 646-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.