Preparing for Dean

The National Weather Service estimates that in an average three-year period, about five hurricanes strike the U.S. coastline, anywhere from Texas to Maine. There is no geographic area immune from hurricanes, so the best defense is a good offense.

From water contamination to power outages and pollutants that can damage food supplies, hurricanes don't just blaze paths of destruction, they are often bad for your health.

But preparing an offensive to protect your family isn’t difficult, according to one American Red Cross official.

In fact, Darlene Sparks, director of preparedness for the Washington D.C. chapter of the American Red Cross, said hurricane preparedness is a matter of three simple actions:

1. Putting together a kit – These are items that you will need if help is delayed, or if you must evacuate.

— Water Supply – You should have one gallon of water per person for a total of three days. The reason you need a gallon each is that the water is used for both consumption and hygiene.

— Food Supply – The food inside your kit should be non-perishable and should not need to be cooked or heated. Some examples include peanut butter, canned tuna fish, and dried fruit snacks. Be aware of any special needs such as restricted diets or baby food. Also remember to include food for your pets.

— Light Source – Be sure to include batteries, as well as a crank-operated flashlight or some light sticks.

— Information Source – You’ll need a battery-operated radio so that you can stay informed about current conditions, monitor the weather and follow the advice given by local officials.

— Important Documents – Passports, Social Security cards, deeds, life insurance/homeowners insurance policies, and copies of all prescription medications should be placed in a waterproof, sealable container.

2. Having a plan – Establish communication and escape procedures before the emergency.

— Choose someone outside the affected area who will be your family’s point-of-contact. “The reason to choose someone outside the affected area is that sometimes it’s easier to make a phone call outside of an affected area than inside," said Washington. "We saw that with the recent event in Peru.” Be sure your point-of-contact and your family members all know to call each other.

— Determine how you and your family will escape from your home if necessary and where you will meet. To help facilitate communications with loved ones and friends in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the Red Cross has developed the Safe and Well Web site.

Family and friends can search this Web site to find a list of those who have registered themselves as “safe and well.” The results of a successful search will display a loved one’s First Name, Last Name, an “As of Date”, and the “safe and well” messages selected.

3. Staying informed – Know where to get information and how to give assistance.

— Find out how emergency managers and local officials will contact you, by e-mail, door-to-door, radio or television.

— Have someone in the household trained in first aid, CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator for automatically diagnosing potential heart attacks) in the event assistance is needed.