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Disaster prep, food safety stressed

Monday morning, Mississippi State University Extension Agent Dawn Vosbein came to the Senior Center of South Pearl River County to give a seminar on food safety and disaster preparedness before and after a storm.

Vosbein said September is National Preparedness Month. With hurricane season at its most active, she taught attendees how to prepare for a natural disaster. Vosbein asked them to think back to Hurricane Katrina about everything they forgot to bring or buy when preparing for the storm.

She said water is one of the most-needed things in an emergency situation, but people often underestimate how much they should have. Vosbein said it is recommended that families have a gallon of water per person, per day. While water bottles are fine, after a year they should be discarded. Water bottles should also be discarded if they were submerged in floodwater, since they can become contaminated. As a result, Vosbein said it’s usually better to buy water in a different container if possible.

She said if food is submerged it will also need to be thrown away. This includes food sealed in thin bags such as cereal and crackers. This also includes homemade canned items. She said when food is canned at home there is no way to get it completely sealed. Additionally, canned food needs to stored at room-temperature, which is hard to maintain in an emergency situation – especially during the summer.

Vosbein said MREs are packaged in such a way that if they are submerged, they just need to be washed before the package is opened.

Other things that should be stocked piled prior to a disaster include flashlights with extra batteries, a first aid kit, a whistle, important family documents and prescriptions. Vosbein said it’s a good idea to take a picture of important documents to have a backup just in case something is lost.

Finally, Vosbein said it is important to always have an emergency contact in mind who knows about personal evacuation plans. This way there is always someone who knows where to look in case phone systems go down.