Families should prepare for emergencies like WV chemical spill - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Families should prepare for emergencies like WV chemical spill

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – An entire area of West Virginia has basically shut down after a chemical spilled into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia, on Thursday.

Schools, businesses and even local government offices in a nine-county area have all closed, and now the federal government has declared a disaster in the state. Officials said Friday that it could take weeks before people can safely drink, cook or wash with the water again.

Despite all the headlines from West Virginia, a disaster that strikes the water supply could happen anywhere and has even hit close to home fairly recently.

In March 2013 the town of Grubbs in Jackson County lost running water for a couple of days after a water main broke, and then this week below-freezing temperatures caused pipes to freeze at homes all across the area.

Because disasters can strike anytime or anywhere, the American Red Cross urges people to stock up enough water for themselves and their families.

"There's lot of things that could cause a disaster that you don't see coming," Jody Carter said.

Carter, the disaster zone manager for the American Red Cross of Northeast Arkansas, recommends that people make emergency kits with a range of supplies just in case something ever happens.

"Our standard message is seven days preparedness," he said, "so have food for seven days for the family and your pets. Have a week's worth of medications, extra sets of eyeglasses and personal hygiene supplies – stuff that you've got to have for the next seven days."

When it comes to water, though, he says families should have a gallon of water per person per day for at least seven days. For example, a family of four should store 28 gallons of water to last a week.

"Some folks choose to go even beyond seven days – 14 [days], 30 days, six months," Carter said. "For whatever period you're preparing for, go at least seven days."

He, however, suggests that people who live in Northeast Arkansas or Southeast Missouri should save up enough water to last two weeks since they live in such close proximity to the New Madrid fault line.

"If we have a New Madrid earthquake, it's going to be longer than seven days for a lot of services to be restored," Carter said. "For an ice storm, seven days is usually pretty good [to restore services]. For a tornado, seven days – but if we have something large like a New Madrid earthquake event, 14 days is not out of the question [to go without services]. Twenty-one days is not out of the question."

If people are concerned about what supplies they should put in their emergency kits, he says they should just think about what they would take on a camping trip.

"If you're going camping for 72 hours and it's you and the family in a tent, what do you need?" Carter said. "Put that in a box."

The American Red Cross of Arkansas has even more resources available online to whoever needs help preparing for a disaster. Click here to find out what other helpful hints the agency has.

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