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Will you be ready when disaster strikes Sonoma County?

Co-owner Doug Bishop kneels next to Sebastopol Hardware Center's disaster-readiness section.

BETH SCHLANKER/ PD
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 8:17 a.m.

Long lines of people waiting for supplies in New York on Monday two weeks after superstorm Sandy hammered the East Coast have struck a deep chord in Sonoma County, where residents are wondering if they are ready should disaster strike closer to home.

Facts

GET READY

The American Red Cross recommends the following as a bare minimum for an at-home emergency kit:
Water: One gallon per person, per day (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
Food: Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
Flashlight
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio, if possible)
Extra batteries
First aid kit
Medications (seven-day supply) and medical items
Multi-purpose tool
Sanitation, personal hygiene items
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Cellphone, chargers
Family and emergency contact information
Extra cash
Emergency blanket
Map of the area

"We live in an area that has not had an earthquake in quite some time and everybody knows it is just a matter of time," said Doug Bishop, co-owner of Sebastopol Hardware Center.

The U.S. Geological Survey predicts a 63 percent probability for one or more magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquakes between now and 2036 within the Bay Area.

Officials recommend maintaining a two-week supply of emergency gear: water, food, medicines and tools. Those items should be itemized and stored in an area separate from the house, experts say.

"If your home experiences major structural damage, the attic is not someplace you are going to want to go digging around," Bishop said.

Bishop's store worked in conjunction with the local American Red Cross office to develop a 16-week plan that shows customers how they can create an emergency supply kit while readying home and family for a major disaster.

In the wake of Sandy, North Coast residents are seeking advice from the American Red Cross on how to be better prepared to survive an earthquake or other disaster in California.

"When there is a big disaster, people want to volunteer and people want to help by donating, but it is a great opportunity for us to spread preparedness awareness," said American Red Cross spokeswoman Ellen Maremont Silver.

Some are stockpiling their own disaster kits. Friedman's Home Improvement reported an uptick in sales of large, industrial containers following Sandy. Plans on how to respond to a disaster should be realistic and reflect already established patterns, said Rebecca Bautista, a Friedman's spokeswoman.

"Take the time to step back and plan what the process would be," she said. "I think that it really depends on your lifestyle and home and what your personal exit strategy is."

Superstorm Sandy is proof that areas hard hit by a natural disaster can be isolated and without amenities for days, even weeks.

Sandy is blamed for 113 U.S. deaths and waves of destruction that still linger. More than 8 million people were without power in the days following the storm's landfall and more than 6,100 people fled to emergency shelters in New York City alone.

Neighborhoods have burned and homes have been washed into the sea.

Two weeks after the brunt of the storm, nearly 90,000 people in New York, New Jersey and West Virginia are still without power and in many cases, without heat, according to the Department of Energy.

Experts say a three-day supply of food and water may not cut it in case of severe emergencies. A two-week supply is a better bet, Silver said.

She also recommended giving thought to the food choices -- pack foods that will not spoil but that will also taste good and potentially provide comfort in a time of crisis.

"You need food, you need water, you need medicine, you need pet food," she said. "Look at what is happening in Manhattan. If authorities can't get to you for whatever reason, three days might not be enough."

Families also should plan communication routes if local service is disrupted.

"Who will you call from out of town? Everybody knows they will call that person and say 'Yes, I'm OK,' and eliminate the worry," Silver said.

While many experts say reliance on technology could be disrupted in the face of a disaster, some cutting edge methods of preparedness are emerging.

The American Red Cross has unveiled online apps for mobile devices that offer a series of "how-to's" in case of earthquake, wildfire and hurricane. Apps are also available with first aid instruction and guides to find shelter.

Although interest in creating an emergency kit tends to surge after major events like Sandy, readiness is nowhere near what it needs to be, experts agreed.

"I couldn't put a number on it, but it's way lower than it should be," Silver said. "

Mendocino County has launched a campaign to train all 1,000 county employees in disaster readiness over the next year. About 80 transportation department employees were trained on county time this month, said Carmel Angelo, chief executive officer for Mendocino County and a board member with the local American Red Cross.

"We see it as a benefit to our employees and a service to our community," she said.

County employees will be better able to assist in community efforts if their home situations are secure in the wake of a disaster, Angelo said.

"County employees understand they are disaster service workers. If something happens, they need to show up," she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry. benefield@pressdemocrat.com.

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