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County officials encourage disaster preparedness

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What will you do when the lights go out?

Kanawha and Putnam County officials are teaming up to make sure you have a plan.

"The June storms were the first time in modern history that we lost the ability to tell the public anything. Other than one or two radio stations statewide, people were in the dark," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. "We have to have a plan and be willing to throw that plan out when things change beyond anything we've experienced before."

The Kanawha Putnam Emergency Planning Committee met with local government official, emergency response teams, health officials and other organizations Friday afternoon at the Kanawha County Ambulance Authority to discuss their plan of action for National Preparedness Month.

If every household can create a supply kit to last them 72 hours, emergency responders will be able to help those who need it the most and know that families are safe, said Kanawha County Fire Coordinator and Deputy Emergency Manager C.W. Sigman.

Families should prepare emergency kits with non-perishable food, gallons of water for each person, medication, cash, pet supplies and first-aid essentials.

"During the derecho, many Kanawha County residents did a great job and knew how to take care of themselves. But we have people who are a little less resilient and need help, like our large elderly population," Sigman said.

People with disabilities and medical conditions should keep an extra three days worth of medication on hand and spare batteries for assistance equipment such as oxygen tanks, said Eric Tissenbaum of the Appalachian Center for Independent Living.

"We want to make sure everyone is prepared, but people with disabilities who depend on certain services to survive need to be able to adapt and take care of their needs during emergency situations," he said.

A Sustainable Families Preparedness Fair will be held Sept. 15 in the Habitat for Humanity's Homeowner Education & Community Center.

The fair will feature exhibits about water storage methods, food storage and canning, alternative cooking lessons and home gardening.

The free event will also provide emergency kits to families and offer hands-on lessons for fire extinguisher and smoke alarm safety.

"We always spread awareness about safety, but after the derecho this year, we decided to join forces for one campaign and put all of our resources together," said KPEPC Administrator Larry Zuspan.

The fair is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and admission is free.

The center is located on 815 Court St. in Charleston. An entrance is also available through the Habitat ReStore.

For more information about National Preparedness Month, call 304-414-3600. Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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