While security experts and law enforcement personnel are determined to make sure events like the Boston Marathon bombing never happen again, emergency preparedness and personal safety begin with the individual.
Whether it's an explosion, flooding or a tornado, Eric Evans, a University of Missouri Extension emergency management specialist, says there are three basic things people need to be prepared for any emergency: a plan, supplies and information.
"First, develop an extensive plan so the individual or family knows what they're going to do in any situation," Evans said. "Next, have a kit that provides basic needs, water and nonperishable food items for a minimum of 72 hours and includes any items for anyone who has special needs, like a child or an older adult. And finally, constantly monitor what is going on so you stay informed."
Make a plan
A disaster plan tells everyone in the family what they're going to do when an emergency happens. A complete disaster plan will include information about each family member, pets, insurance and finances, medications, vehicles, and the home and its contents.
You can download a disaster plan template at www.extension.missouri.edu/EMW1011. The PDF file can be filled out electronically, so you can update it frequently and print new copies.
Families should have a disaster kit that includes the disaster plan and emergency supplies. The kit should be easily accessible so you can grab and go when there is an emergency, Evans said.
Items in a basic disaster kit should include nonperishable food, flashlights, extra batteries, a battery-operated or hand-cranked AM/FM radio, a first-aid kit and water. Other items might include work gloves, sturdy footwear, toiletries and tools to turn off utilities.
When putting together your kit, remember pets and people with special needs, including babies, the elderly and those with medical conditions.
Your kit also should include cash. In the aftermath of a large-scale event, ATMs may be unavailable and vendors may not be able to process credit card transactions.
MU Extension has downloadable guides to putting together a disaster kit at www.extension.missouri.edu/EMW1012.
Evans says he is often surprised at how unaware of situations many people are.
"I'll walk into a place and ask what they think about the current flooding and people will look at me and say, 'What flooding are you talking about?'" he said. "Now I realize I'm an emergency manager and that's my job, but everyone should constantly be aware of their surroundings, whether at home, at work or out in public."
One way to keep informed and make sure severe weather conditions don't catch you unawares is by having a weather radio in your home.
Weather radios are designed to receive information broadcast by the National Weather Service. Many models can be programmed to sound an alarm when the weather service broadcasts emergency warnings for your area. They range in price from about $20 to $100 or more. Select a model with battery backup so that it will sound even if the power goes out.
"It's very loud. It will wake you up in the middle of the night," Evans said. "I have ours programmed for watches and warnings, so I can have more notice and get the family prepared."
Like other safety equipment, Evans recommends testing it regularly to ensure that it will go off when needed.
Evans says that having emergency preparations in place will help you and your family cope both physically and mentally if disaster strikes.
"With you knowing what you are going to do, having a plan and having a system in place to take care of yourself, your stress level is so much different," Evans said. "You're confident, you are able to move forward and you are able to think more clearly because you are not worrying about what is going to happen. You have a plan and are prepared."
For more information from MU Extension on emergency management, go to www.extension.missouri.edu/cemp or contact your local MU Extension center.