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Are you ready for a disaster? Emergency Preparedness Fair helps locals prepare for catastrophes

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Posted: Wednesday, September 6, 2017 3:30 pm

Tropical Storm Harvey — a hurricane when it made landfall on Friday night on the Gulf Coast in Texas — dumped more than 50 inches on the Houston area.

The calamitous flooding left more than a third of Harris County, which includes Houston, underwater.

Now, Hurricane Irma is sweeping through the Caribbean.

If not for the extensive system of reservoirs and dams found throughout California, the Central Valley may have suffered a similar fate earlier this year. Winter conditions, including rainfall amounts, were similar to those in 1862, which turned the valley into a vast inland sea.

Damage to both spillways at the Oroville Dam showed how tenuous that protection can be.

And flooding isn’t the only potential catastrophe Californians face. Wildfires, earthquakes, disease outbreaks and even tornados have cropped up in the past.

Preparing for disaster may seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be.

As the U.S. enters National Preparedness Month, the Emergency Preparedness Fair will offer advice, toolkits, demonstrations and more for the local community.

“You just never know what situation might happen,” said Jill Means, who is helping to organize the annual fair.

The fair will provide information about everything from the basics, such as putting together evacuation and shelter-in-place kits, to advanced skills like cooking with a solar oven or using a Ham radio, she said.

But residents shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Even having just a 72-hour kit and a supply of food and water can be a big step toward surviving a disaster, she said.

“If you’re prepared and you know what you’re doing, you’re also able to serve other people better,” she said.

The fair is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it’s a free service the church offers to the whole community, Means stressed. Tokay High School offered to host the event in its gym.

Booths will offer resources and information about where supplies can be purchased, although no vendors will be at the event itself.

“We’re not trying to sell you anything. We’re really doing it to get information to people,” Means said.

Helping others learn how to weather disaster is important for Means. During the Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties, Means and other members of the LDS church headed up to Burson to help out.

They ended up helping to sort through donations, and bringing up trailers to help move livestock to safety.

The Mormon Church also works with the American Red Cross and Catholic Charities in times of need, Means said.

The Emergency Preparedness Fair will include local police and fire departments, the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services, the Boys Scouts and other groups.

“The Lodi Fire Department, Woodbridge Fire Department, the police department are all going to have their vehicles there, and fire safety for kids,” Means said.

One booth will be giving out free child identification kits for parents. The kits help parents gather all of the information that a law enforcement agency will need if their child is missing.

Another will teach pet owners how to prepare for their furry companions’ needs during an emergency.

“The boy who’s doing the emergency preparedness for pets, he was inspired by when the Oroville Dam disaster happened,” Means said.

He heard of pets being injured on the road or worse because owners forgot to bring leashes and other supplies in case they got stuck in their cars for hours.

Other booths will cover storing food for short- and long-term disasters, putting together a first aid kit, food preservation, solar cooking, emergency communications and more.

“Don’t get overwhelmed by it, but just start somewhere. Start small,” Means said.

The organizers hope the community will come out to get information, she said. Catastrophes in Texas, California and around the world this year have shown that disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. They also show how important even a little preparation can be.

“(In Texas) they asked people to shelter in place, which means that you should stay in your home, and there were so many people who didn’t have basic food, medicine and supplies to sustain their families while they wait,” she said.

She also hoped that anyone who can’t make it to the event will visit the new Be Prepared Lodi website, a work in progress. Fair organizers will be adding all of the topics covered at the fair over the next few months.

They’re hoping to expand and improve the Emergency Preparedness Fair in future years, and get word out about the community resource.

“It’s already been an annual event, but we want to build on this event for next year, so we’re very open to people who have ideas or suggestions for future events. We’d love to get feedback,” Means said.

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