- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

You, Dear Readers, have been brutally honest recently. You took me to the woodshed a couple of weeks ago, for pointing out Andy Rooney's crude comments regarding women sports journalists. You e-mailed words of praise last week on my thoughts regarding the Rev. Al Sharpton's likely presidential run in 2004. (You also pointed out my error regarding Bill Bradley, the former New York Knick cum New Jersey senator). Mea culpa, New Yorkers.

In kind, I offer you a hand up regarding emergency preparedness, that is.

The particulars come courtesy of my employer and the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, which issued a guide on the simple things we can do for ourselves, our families and our neighbors in case of natural disaster or terror strikes.

Most of the recommendations are common sense like preparing what I call a grab-and-go kit. Such plans and the words, Be Prepared have been criss-crossing our minds since September 11, and Americans who live in regions routinely hit by floods, blizzards and other natural disasters are probably better prepared than the average household.

We always need to be prepared, not paranoid, about the times we now live in. While I certainly don't want to alarm you, we do need to remember that we likely will go to war with Iraq. U.N. inspectors are over there now, determined, we hope, to uncover precisely what weapons of mass destruction are in the vicious hands of Saddam Hussein. The least we can do, here on the home front, is be prepared in our own small, but important, way. So let's get started.

You know those canned goods and nonperishables we are gathering to donate this holiday season to churches and food kitchens? Pack yourself a bag of goodies while you're at it. The same general principles apply, but the quantities change: three to five days' worth of water (one gallon per person, per day); and nonperishable packaged and canned foods.

Keep a change of clothing and blankets handy as well. And, girlfriends, forget the hose and heels. Remember, use common sense; think walking shoes.

If an infant, senior citizen or disabled relative or neighbor might be in your care, don't forget diapers and formula, extra eyeglasses, pharmaceuticals and the like. As a matter of fact, it would be a good idea to make sure all important medical information, including phone numbers, prescriptions and serial numbers for such things as pacemakers, are written down and kept in your fireproof security box or safe-deposit box along with deeds, insurance and credit-card info, birth and marriage certificates, and photocopies of Social Security cards, passports and the like.

And you know that mad money you stash in your desk drawer at the office? Just in case you and the gang want to hit happy hour and you dare not put the bill on your credit card? Triple the amount. And don't argue with me.

Also, have that grab-and-go kit at the ready: radio and batteries; flashlight; first-aid supplies; basic handyman tools; cash and extra car keys; a charger for that indispensible cell phone (you'll be making lots of calls).

Where will the family meet up? What's the plan if you're at work and your children are at school?

Step 1 in my plan includes discussing emergency-preparedness issues while the family is gathered for Thanksgiving dinner. Not as a depressant, mind you. But to remind loved ones, after we bless the meal and the hands that prepared it, that being prepared amid chaos helps keep us safe and sound.

Of course, the D.C. Family Preparedness Guide provides far more useful information, including prepping your children, than this space allows. And, while the helpful and detailed evacuation route applies to those in the the nation's capital, I nonetheless encourage you to visit the D.C. web site (dcema.dc.gov) and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema.gov) Web site for this and more vital information.

These days, even in everyday conversations with friends and family, we sometimes have a tendency to say "TMI" too much information. No more. These are troubling times.

No longer can we rely on children being taught about fire drills in school. We have to do more.

No longer can we rely, as my generation did, on merely learning how to kneel under our school desks or against the wall, heads tightly tucked, in case of a civil-defense alert. Those were important aids for self-preservation.

That's not enough. Not these days.

These days, people strap themselves with bombs and set out to kill civilians on buses.

These days, people learn how to fly airplanes, but not land them, and fly smack into the World Trade Center.

These days, nations arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction.

We've got a lot to be thankful for.

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