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Vargo: Resolve to Be Ready for Potential Disasters

WHEELING — Across the country people are dealing with the aftermath of tornadoes, fires, floods and other natural disasters. And while no plan is foolproof, emergency officials are encouraging people to resolve to be ready during the new year.

Lou Vargo, director of the Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Agency, said the most common disasters people deal with in the Ohio Valley include flash floods on creeks and streams and Ohio River floods, snowstorms, ice storms and electric power outages.

But there are other potential issues people should keep in mind.

“With the interstate, residents living close by must be aware of a hazardous materials release,” he said. “Weather trends are changing annually. (The year) 2021 was the highest number (25) of tornadoes affecting the Ohio Valley. With windstorms, trees fall and power lines are disrupted. Be prepared for no electricity as well.”

Vargo recommends people pay attention to weather forecasts and keep a radio on hand with fresh batteries to operate it if they lose electric power. Even better, he said, is a NOAA weather radio. Such radios can be purchased at Walmart and other retailers.

Regarding emergency kits there are a variety of pre-made kits people can purchase, but they can also be made at home.

“The rule of thumb is to have your family emergency kit available for three days, but I recommend that the family prepare for seven days. Also, when preparing your family emergency kit, make sure you include your pets and have supplies for them,” Vargo said. “It is important to also have copies of vital information in your kit; for example, your insurance policy numbers and representative contact information. If your home is damaged or destroyed, this is essential for FEMA.”

Kits should contain food and water and essential items such as medicines.

“There are commercially available kits that are good and have packaged foods with a long shelf life. But, it is just as easy to select the foods that your family likes as compared to generic foods. Just remember to keep track of their expiration dates and rotate them to keep fresh supplies. Have plenty of water, three gallons per person per day,” Vargo said.

People may also want to consider keeping some supplies in their vehicle as well. A recent storm in Virginia that dumped a foot of snow stranded motorists on a 50-mile stretch of interstate. Some motorists were stranded for 24 hours without access to food, water or heat while a path was cleared and trucks and vehicles moved. According to published reports, people periodically turned on their vehicle’s heaters to stay warm and shared food and water with each other.

Vargo recommends that people keep an emergency kit in their vehicle. It should contain a first aid kit, a radio, change of clothes, high energy food bars, water and a bottle with at least one day’s worth of prescription medications. He also suggests that people keep a shovel and cat litter in their car to help with traction in case their vehicle gets stuck in the snow. Hand warmer packs and warm blankets are also needed, he said.

“Try to keep your gas tank full,” Vargo noted.

And if one is traveling with their pet, have some pet food on hand, too.

Moises Dugan, acting regional administrator of FEMA Region 5, recommends that people have an emergency plan that everyone in the family is aware of, including meeting places.

“It only takes a few simple steps, and it starts with understanding the unique disaster risks in your community and making a family emergency communications plan,” Dugan said in a press release. “Sit down with the members of your household now and talk about the disasters that could impact your area. Ensure everyone knows the shelter plan and evacuation routes, as well as how your family will reconnect if something happens.”

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