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Your Money: In an emergency, when seconds count, know where to turn

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September is National Preparedness Month and what better time to ensure your family’s emergency readiness than with a month dedicated to your safety. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when the seconds start to count.

Safety is paramount in an emergency, but basic protective actions – for instance, whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place – can differ depending upon the disaster. There are important differences among potential emergencies that should influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.

Families should familiarize themselves with the Web site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It outlines the emergencies that could potentially occur where you live and offers the appropriate ways to respond to each.

Two things every family needs no matter what the disaster, whether a natural disaster or terrorism, are an emergency plan and an emergency kit.

Recommended items for an emergency kit include:

• A gallon of water per person per day for three days

• A three-day supply of nonperishable food for each family member

• A flashlight with extra batteries

• A first-aid kit

• A whistle to signal for help

• Dust masks

• A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

• A power inverter or solar charger for your cell phone

You may consider including prescriptions (at the very least a list of prescriptions), infant formula and diapers, pet food and cash. Place copies of important family documents (insurance policies, identification and financial records) in a waterproof, portable container near your escape route. Pencil and paper, paper cups and plates, and plastic utensils are useful. And if you have kids, pack some games, books or puzzles. Maintaining your kit is also important. You will want to replace stored water and food about every six months. Mark the date on containers or cans.

For an emergency plan, make sure all family members know where to meet and who to contact in the case you get separated. A relative or friend in another area is an ideal emergency contact person. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to send and receive text messages. Consider downloading smart phone apps that provide emergency information.

Reach Kelvin Collins, the president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., at (800) 763-4222 or www.bbb.org.


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