Be prepared — emergency kits a must

Possibly the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is the equipment necessary for a 72-hour emergency preparedness kit and to truly take an inventory of your life to figure out what you need to survive if the lights were out and roads were closed off for a few days.

For instance, if you’re the kind of person who always waits to the last second to fill up on gas, truly consider changing that habit. During the December storm in 2007, power was out for most gas stations for several days and when the power did return, gasoline was soon exhausted.

A generator could be a good idea — but make sure it’s functioning correctly and has plenty of ventilation. In the aftermath of the December 2007 storm, a malfunctioning generator sent 19 people, including a child, to the emergency room with carbon monoxide poisoning after a grocery store’s generator in Ocean Shores malfunctioned.

A chain saw could be a good tool. Keeping cash on hand may be useful, too, because if you do need to buy something when the power’s out, don’t expect a credit card to work. Cell phones are more in use today than five years ago and consider buying an emergency cell phone battery that could be used if the current battery dies.

And if an emergency happens, consider crafting a family emergency plan. Develop a neighborhood meeting place. Find an evacuation location. Make sure everyone has a specific point of contact located outside of the region. Sometimes phone service may be down locally because the circuits and cell towers are overwhelmed, but everyone can call someone in the Seattle area or out of state.

Consider storing supplies in backpacks to “grab and go” and make sure, also, to make copies of important family documents, such as insurance policies, contracts, Social Security cards, passports and immunization records. A NOAA weather radio may also be helpful to get proper warning before a disaster hits.

Here’s a partial checklist of items to carry in a 72-hour emergency preparedness kit, provided by the Grays Harbor Department of Emergency Management:

Water — One gallon per person, per day for three days.

Food — particularly that requires no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. Consider ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, canned juices, milk, soup, sugar, salt, pepper, peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix and vitamins.

First-aid supplies — Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes, 2- and 4-inch sterile gauze pads, hypoallergenic adhesive tape, triangular bandages, sterile roller bandages, scissors, tweezers, needles, moistened towelettes, antiseptic, a thermometer, soap, sun screen, aspirin or other pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, syrup of ipecac, laxatives.

Clothing and bedding — Sturdy shoes or work boots, rain gear, blankets or sleeping bags, hat and gloves, thermal underwear, sunglasses

Tools and supplies — Disposable cups, plates, utensils, battery operated radio and flashlight, lots of extra batteries, can opener, utility knife, tube tent, tape, pliers, compass, matches in waterproof container, aluminum foil, plastic storage containers, paper, pencil, needles, thread, medicine dropper, shut-off wrench to turn off household gas and water, whistle, map of area, toilet paper, feminine supplies, plastic garbage bags, ties, plastic bucket with tight lid, disinfectant, household chlorine bleach, supplies for babies, special medication, including insulin and heart and blood pressure medication, contact lenses and supplies, extra eye glasses.