MORGANTOWN - When faced with emergency situations such as water contamination, West Virginia University Extension Service's expert says that the most important thing to do is to remain calm.
"In any disaster situation, it's critical that you remain calm so that you can make informed and rational choices," according to Steve Bonanno, interim director of the WVU Extension Service. Bonanno has spent 14 years as deputy director of the Pleasants County Office of Emergency Services.
A state of emergency was declared following a chemical spill affecting water in southern West Virginia. The counties of Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane are being advised to use tap water only to flush toilets.
The chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, is used as a foaming agent to separate coal from rock in washing plants.
In an emergency, he advises turning to trusted sources of information such as the Red Cross and FEMA to ensure you and your family are taking the necessary precautions to stay safe.
WVU Extension agents are also reminding people that creating an emergency preparedness kit for your home can help alleviate anxiety during an emergency.
"Most of the feelings of panic come from not knowing how we will meet our basic needs, like food and water," Bonanno said. "An emergency kit can help supply you with enough materials to make it through until official help arrives."
He recommends keeping at least three days' worth of food, medications, water and clothes accessible as part of your emergency kit.
It also is important to know how to shut off your gas, water and electrical service in an emergency.
WVU Extension's expert suggests including the following materials in an emergency kit:
- Water: You should have one gallon of water for every person in your household for each day. The general rule of thumb is to be prepared to wait out a disaster or emergency for three days.
- Food: You should have at least a three-day supply for each person in your household. Food should be non-perishable and not have to be refrigerated. Examples include canned soups, dry cereals and peanut butter.
- Manual can opener: Many non-perishable foods come in cans. Keeping a can opener with your emergency food supply makes it easier to open. You may also want to keep cups, plates, utensils and paper towels with your supplies.
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radios: These can help keep you up-to-date in an emergency.
- Flashlight(s) and enough extra batteries for all equipment.
- First aid kit: Make sure your first aid kit meets your medical needs. For example, if you take insulin, your kit should have extra insulin and needles.
- Plastic sheeting with duct tape: This can be used to cover your home's windows and doors in case outdoor air is contaminated with debris or chemicals. The plastic sheeting will make a barrier between you and the harmful air outside.
- Household bleach and medicine dropper: If you do not have safe drinking water, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. You can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
For more information on how to prepare for an emergency situation, contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service, or visit ext.wvu.edu.