Staying prepared: How to be ready for a disaster even after the disaster

Preparation comes before catastrophes strike, not after

Published: Monday, Nov. 5 2012 9:00 p.m. MST

Using FEMA's earthquake modeling software, called HAZUS, the state of Utah was able to estimate the damage if a 7.0 earthquake were to hit the Wasatch fault line. The numbers are only estimates and not predictions.

The state estimates more than 10,000 buildings would collapse and 285,000 would be damaged, according to BeReadyUtah.

There would be an estimated 2,300 people killed and 30,000 more injured if an earthquake were to hit. Another estimated 350,000 people would be displaced due to damages to property.

The quake would cause $35 billion in damages and 160 fires, according to the study. Water could be cut off for months.

FEMA considers an earthquake the biggest threat to Utah mainly because the state hasn't experienced a major one before, Longman said.

Not just hurricanes, earthquakes

Hall says that preparing for earthquakes and hurricanes is important, but that's not as common as other problems that could beset a family.

"Most people don't like to think about it, but the more common cases to prepare for are job loss or reduction," Hall, a 36-year-old software engineer, said. "The same skills that go into getting ready for a disaster, like a Hurricane Sandy, are the same things that will help you if you lose your job for a couple of months."

Being prepared

Ellis says he has lived most of his life feeling that he and his family are safe.

He and his wife have been setting aside food, water and other preparedness items since they were married in 1992.

"It's a gradual progression," Ellis said. "It's not something you can wake up and one day say, 'Hey, I'm going to do food storage.' This is something that is a constant rotation. You have to eat what you store and store what you eat."

Ellis is now the emergency preparedness specialist for a group of congregations in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He helps members of the LDS Church in his community develop emergency plans.

"I don't think people really know how to attack it," Ellis said. "It's not something you just do tomorrow and you're done."

What to get

The Utah Preppers blog has many posts on how to get started on emergency preparedness.

In a phone interview, Hall gave a list of the most important things to focus on when bracing for an emergency.

Ensuring that your family has plenty of water is top priority.

Establish or purchase a 72-hour kit, which will provide basic needs for you and your family.

Make sure that you and your family have sufficient medications on hand if anyone needs them. For example, if someone needs insulin, make sure there will be enough.

First aid training and materials are important in case of injuries.

Keeping your family safe from the elements if you lose your home is crucial. Make sure you have a place to stay safe from the elements.

A store of food is important, but relatively low on the priorities because of the human body's ability to go without food for long periods of time.

Financial preparation is a matter of using it wisely and saving properly, Hall said. You and your family should be able to afford a hotel if you need one.

"The essence of preparedness is trying to mitigate a disaster down to something you can get through," Hall said.

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com TWITTER: joeyferguson

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