Jane Harrington-Smith, Retired journalist –  WTHR Channel 13 – Indianapolis, Indiana

As my husband worked non-stop to complete this project, which has been in the making for years, I decided to conduct a little emergency drill of my own in which I tried to quickly put together the kind of supplies most people would need in the event of an emergency.

It was a real eye-opener, and a startling realization that anyone, anywhere, at anytime, may have to suddenly evacuate their home or job hoping to find food and shelter somewhere. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, all of us should be keenly aware that in the event of an emergency every second counts, and if you make it out alive there may be no immediate help for you or your family. That is why every home and business needs this Emergency Survival Kit.

Keep it handy so you can use it in the event of a crisis that may force you to quickly leave work or your home.

The advent of the H1N1 otherwise known as the swine flu attracted worldwide fears, and an expected escalating death toll. The United States, however, has more than two centuries of experience dealing with natural and manmade crisis. Let’s hope each of these terrible crises left us wiser and better able to cope with adversity.

For example, the folks on the East Coast can tell you what it’s like to have no phone service or running water, heat and other utilities due to massive snow storms. People in the South can tell you the panic that accompanies hurricanes and widespread flooding. In the Midwest, the fear of tornadoes is truly justifiable. Midwesterners know tornadoes can wipe out entire towns in a matter of seconds. And in the Western part of this country, earthquakes, massive fires, etc. pose very real dangers.

Finally, memories of September 11, 2001 still leave us feeling raw and vulnerable. Katrina’s victims would have been glad to have items as basic as a roll of toilet tissue and a bottle of water. An important lesson all of us should have learned is that we must prepare for a crisis as best we can. No, we can’t stop emergencies from occurring, but we can prepare to protect ourselves and our families.

Here’s the lesson I learned in what could have been 20-life-or-death minutes in my own home.

Late one Friday afternoon, I decided to conduct a drill, to assess how quickly I could respond to an impending emergency, like a fire, chemical spill, etc., that would force my family and me to suddenly have to evacuate our home.

It took more than twenty panicked, precious minutes to pack just the bare necessities. I flew through the house picking up things I thought we’d need for two or three days away from home. I quickly combed through closets, rifled through drawers for a change of clothes, underwear, etc. (I forgot to include extra socks and a change of shoes).
I tried to quickly pack toiletries, bottles of water, toilet tissue, paper towel, handy-wipes, hand sanitizer, flashlights (I couldn’t find any extra batteries), candles (I couldn’t find matches or a lighter either). And as I packed as fast as I could, Benji (our little terrier) sensed something was amiss and constantly got in the way, the phone started ringing, and everyone in the house seemed to need my undivided attention simultaneously.

The fact is, if this had been a true emergency, I may not have had even twenty minutes to evacuate the house. We’d have to grab whatever we could find in mere seconds and probably would end up leaving the house with just the clothing on our backs. Those precious minutes that I spent trying to pack enough to get by for a few days, may have been the difference between life and death.

Even though, I knew what supplies were included in the Emergency Survival Kit, and knew the food supplies, medications, and personal products we’d need, I couldn’t remember all those things at the time. In fact, I couldn’t even find my car keys.

What’s more, I’m no novice when it comes to emergencies. In the more than twenty years I spent as a television news reporter, I covered more natural and manmade emergencies than I can count. I saw firsthand the terrible devastation that these events cause. I’ve seen entire communities wiped out by tornadoes, homes and businesses ruined by fire, flooding, or even worse… the human toll, the deaths that often occur from these events.

The kit, contains important items that you and your family will need in case of an emergency, whether you’re isolated inside your home or ordered to leave for your own safety. This kit includes items such as, plastic ponchos, emergency blankets, tarps, water resistant flashlights and matches, batteries and special candles. There is also a special weather radio equipped with a light and compass. Paper towel, toilet tissue, hand sanitizers and facial masks are also included, along with many other necessary supplies to help meet your needs.

Most important is the information we urge you to complete in this brochure. Take a couple of minutes to carefully review the following information; discuss with your family. There are also identification cards for you to laminate and place in your children’s shoes to help you locate them in the event your family gets separated. This kit is designed to help you and your loved ones survive an emergency.

No home should be without this Emergency Survival Kit. And if you have children or elderly relatives who live alone, order this kit for them. It may be the best gift they ever receive. It may also be the wisest purchase you have ever made.