Health

Kentucky’s Department of Public Health launched a campaign to urge Kentuckians to prepare for disasters. It’s called “First 72 On You.”

“The first three days are pretty much when you’re more likely to be on your own, and you need to sustain yourself and your family before help can arrive,” said Heather Walls, Medical Reserves Core coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Public Health. “I would be able to sustain myself or my family in my home for 72 hours — I don’t have any big needs — but someone who has an elderly family member that needs dialysis, those are the people that emergency personnel respond to first.”

Walls said the first 72 hours after a disaster are the most critical for people who have medical needs and may be elderly or have a disability, which makes it even more important for people who are able to sustain themselves without help to do so.

Flooding is often a common disaster in the state, especially after snow storms and rain storms. Walls also said that western Kentucky is at risk for a disaster from an earthquake because the region is near a fault line.

Walls said one of the first steps is to create an emergency plan. Create a meeting spot for family members if cell service is cut, know the evacuation routes and inform your local fire department or police station of any family members who may not be able to evacuate quickly because of a disability, she said.

“Having a plan for your family as to where you would meet if you were all separated — how do you come back together after a disaster, what’s the plan where your kids go to school,” Walls said. “So knowing, ‘I’m at work, and my kids are at school, but I know they’re OK.’”

The state also recommends creating an emergency supply kit that could sustain you and your family through the first 72 hours of a disaster. Think about what you’d need if grocery stores were closed, and electricity and water was cut. This might include water (about a gallon of water per person, per day), duct tape, matches, disposable cups, blankets, extra clothing, non-perishable food, a flashlight, a can opener and medicine.

Walls said this kit doesn’t have to come together immediately, but can be built over time.

“One of the things that we try to focus on is that when you have people that might not have the abilities to get some of these items, that we say to build your kit over time,” Walls said. “If you buy a little bit over time, that you just get it as you can and keep adding to the list.

Walls said that creating a list of medications is also helpful.

“So when you’re out, you can know you take this, this many times a day, so you can get medications. Usually you can get so many days of your medication without a prescription.”

Walls said to also keep track of news events like a hurricane to monitor if there’s a chance for a possible disaster like flooding. Many cities, counties and states have opt-in public alert and warning systems. She also said it’s important to know community partners, such as a local health departments and fire stations.

The effort from Kentucky is part of an annual nationwide push from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, started after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.