VALDOSTA -- As the war on terrorism lingers and tensions continue to mount, American Red Cross officials encourage families and individuals to think about and develop a plan of personal safety.

At President George W. Bush's request, the American Red Cross developed Together We Prepare, an emergency response plan comprised of five steps. Organization officials describe the plan as easy and capable of saving lives and making a difference. The plan can be used in response to any sort of emergency, whether natural -- a severe storm -- or man-made -- a chemical spill or attack.

"The American Red Cross has a strong responsibility to help citizens be aware of what might happen and how to be prepared for those situations," said Penelope White, executive director of the Valdosta Chapter of the American Red Cross. "This plan helps people to know what to do in an emergency and how to make their family and community safer and save a life."



STEP ONE -- MAKE A PLAN

White said the more families and individuals have planned ahead of time, the calmer and more assured they will be during an emergency situation. This step begins, she said, with people sitting down with loved ones and talking about potential disasters and the importance of knowing what to do should they occur.

"Everyone should have a job and should be able to do it quickly and efficiently when the times comes," she added. "This requires practice. You have to practice your plan periodically just like you practice fire drills at school."



STEP TWO -- BUILD A KIT

White said every household should assemble a disaster supply kit. In the event disaster strikes -- a huge storm cuts off the power, phone, and other basic services for several days -- she said people will not have the time or the ability to shop for supplies.

According to the American Red Cross, a kit should have enough supplies to meet each person's needs for at least three days. The basics include water, food, a manual can opener, first aid supplies, a change of clothing and blanket or sleeping bag, flashlights, radios, batteries, and special items for infants, the elderly and others.

White said having a well-stocked kit will come in handy in case of an emergency evacuation, when things are uncertain.



STEP THREE -- GET TRAINED

White said everyone should know how to administer CPR and basic first aid. In the event of a disaster, she said emergency medical responders may be delayed in reaching potential victims. This sort of training can mean the difference between life and death, she added.

"It's very good stuff to know," White said.

The American Red Cross offers a variety of opportunities for people to learn how to save lives.



STEP FOUR -- VOLUNTEER

White said everyone has the ability to lend a helping hand. Volunteers are the backbone of the American Red Cross, she added, and desperately needed to continue to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

Since July 1, 2003, the local chapter has responded to 50 single family fires affecting the lives of more than 175 people. Volunteers assisted these individuals in locating shelter, food, water, and clothing and assessing the damage.

Terrell Anderson, a local teenager who attended a recent training session, said he looks forward to joining the American Red Cross soon and making a difference in the lives of his friends and neighbors.



STEP FIVE -- GIVE BLOOD

White said a safe and secure blood supply is critical to public health. Regular donations are essential to ensure that the American Red Cross has the ability to meet the needs of everyone all the time.

"It's so easy to do," she said. "It's a huge service for fellow citizens who may find themselves in an emergency situation."

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in America needs a blood transfusion. This includes cancer patients, accident victims, premature infants, and people with chronic diseases. Every donation has the potential to save three lives.

The Valdosta Chapter of the American Red Cross' first Together We Prepare class was held in March. Another one is scheduled for 9 a.m., Tuesday, June 22, in the organization's offices, which are located on the second floor of the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts. The training is free and appropriate for those ages 10 and up.

For information, call 242-7404.



To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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