JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – An entire area of West Virginia has basicallyshut down after a chemical spilled into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia,on Thursday.
Schools, businesses and even local government offices in anine-county area have all closed, and now the federal government has declared adisaster in the state. Officials said Friday that it could take weeks before peoplecan safely drink, cook or wash with the water again.
Despite all the headlines from West Virginia, a disaster thatstrikes the water supply could happen anywhere and has even hit close to home fairlyrecently.
In March 2013 the town of Grubbs in Jackson County lostrunning water for a couple of days after a water main broke, and then this weekbelow-freezing temperatures caused pipes to freeze at homes all across thearea.
Because disasters can strike anytime or anywhere, theAmerican Red Cross urges people to stock up enough water for themselves andtheir families.
"There's lot of things that could cause a disaster that youdon't see coming," Jody Carter said.
Carter, the disaster zone manager for the American Red Crossof Northeast Arkansas, recommends that people make emergency kits with a rangeof supplies just in case something ever happens.
"Our standard message is seven days preparedness," he said, "sohave food for seven days for the family and your pets. Have a week's worth ofmedications, extra sets of eyeglasses and personal hygiene supplies – stuff thatyou've got to have for the next seven days."
When it comes to water, though, he says families should havea gallon of water per person per day for at least seven days. For example, afamily 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 NortheastArkansas or Southeast Missouri should save up enough water to last two weekssince they live in such close proximity to the New Madrid fault line.
"If we have a New Madrid earthquake, it's going to be longerthan seven days for a lot of services to be restored," Carter said. "For an icestorm, 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 isnot out of the question."
If people are concerned about what supplies they should putin their emergency kits, he says they should just think about what they wouldtake on a camping trip.
"If you're going camping for 72 hours and it's you and thefamily in a tent, what do you need?" Carter said. "Put that in a box."
The American Red Cross of Arkansas has even more resourcesavailable online to whoever needs help preparing for a disaster. Click here tofind out what other helpful hints the agency has.