Public Reminded To Be Ready, Be Prepared In 2008

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Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) encourages Dallas County residents to start the New Year prepared and ready for emergences. DCHHS continues to plan and drill to ensure its capacity to respond to any public health emergency. The agency also offers citizens suggestions on what each household and business can do now to prepare for public health emergencies.

"We want the citizens of Dallas County to know that Dallas County Health and Human Services is at the forefront of nationwide public health preparedness efforts," said Zachary Thompson, DCHHS Director. "We continually work to address the health challenges ahead to ensure the health and safety of all residents in the event of any natural or manmade disaster," Thompson stated.

So what can the public do now to make sure they are ready? First, DCHHS encourages everyone to follow good health habits to help prevent the spread of the flu and other diseases and to teach these habits to their children. "These are simple, yet effective methods, that we need to make routine: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home or avoid close contact with others when you are sick. Cover your mouth and nose or cough into bend of your arm. Wash your hands with soap and water or alcoholbased hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth," said Thompson.

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The second thing DCHHS urges is for everyone to take personal responsibility in developing a preparedness plan for their homes. DCHHS has published a Personal Preparedness Guide to help households and businesses prepare for emergencies. "The critical aspect of surviving any emergency is proper advance planning," Thompson continued. "When it comes to emergencies and personal preparedness, it's not a matter of if something will happen, it's a matter of when," Thompson said. "In the two and a half years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coasts, the one truth that still resonates the loudest is that the people who successfully survived were those who planned ahead to ensure the safety of themselves and their family."

In some emergencies, you may be asked to shelter at home for an extended period of time. There are eight basics you should stock in your home to be prepared: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing, bedding, tools, emergency supplies, and special need items. DCHHS recommends that you keep a two week supply of these items, update your stockpile every six months, and rethink your family needs once a year.

In other instances, you may be directed to leave your home. DCHHS recommends that each household have a Go Kit ready for emergency evacuations. Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members. The Go Kit should be an easytocarry, waterproof and fireproof container that includes items that you would most likely need during an emergency. These items should include birth and death certificates, insurance papers, bank records, car titles, deeds, mortgage and loan information, immunization records, military discharge, wills, living wills, powers of attorney, divorce decrees and custody orders. You may also consider including any items, such as family photos, that cannot be replaced.

Plan ahead and know where you're going in advance and share this information with family and friends. Identify a mutual meeting place should someone become lost or separated. Identify an outoftown contact and make sure everyone has the information. Plan to leave early to ensure family can travel together. If you have small children, consider writing the child's name, parent's name and address, a cell phone number, the phone number of the next of kin not in the area, and any medical condition on the child's back. Should you become separated, this will assist with reconnecting the family.

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