Health Watch: Staying safe during a disaster in Alaska

Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 4:08 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - September is National Preparedness Month in Alaska and across the U.S.

Jeremy Zidek, Public Information Officer with the State of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said, “National Preparedness Month is an opportunity for both people on the local level, statewide level and national level to take a look at emergency preparedness and look at ways we can better prepare.”

He added, “Everywhere in our nation can be impacted by some type of natural disaster event, and it’s critical that people take some steps before a disaster occurs in order to get some of the things in place that are really going to benefit them when that event happens.”

According to Zidek, these include having an emergency plan and emergency kit, and being informed about the disasters that can impact one’s area.

“A family emergency plan really doesn’t cost us anything, it’s just a conversation. And once we have it, we, there’s really a lot of peace of mind that comes with that,” he said.

Zidek explained that while Alaska experiences just about any disaster seen in the lower-48, four hazards that Alaska sees on a regular basis are flooding, wildfires, storms and earthquakes.

“Alaska has seen the largest earthquake ever recorded in North American history. That’s the 9.2 Good Friday earthquake that took place back in 1964,” he said, adding, “Alaska averages about thirteen 7.0 earthquakes every ten years somewhere in the state.”

There are fault lines up near Fairbanks as well, according to Zidek.

“Here in Alaska, we’re a long way from resupply. Most of the goods that we see on our store shelves, the fuel, it comes through the port of Anchorage and then travels by road and rail up into the Interior, and then by planes out to these far-flung areas.” Zidek said that for that reason, Alaskans are advised to have a week’s worth of emergency supplies as opposed to the 3-day supply recommended in the lower-48. “We’re really looking for people, ideally, to have two weeks of supplies in their home. These are things like food, water, a first-aid kit, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, medication.”

In Alaska, this supply also includes a safe, indoor heat source. “It gets cold here, and it’s cold for a long time. And we might have something like an earthquake that disrupts power and water, and if people don’t have those supplies, they can’t stay in their home. The difficulty of having those supplies is really compounded by the cold because that’s a deadly element all in itself,” Zidek said.

Planning guidelines and more information about disaster preparedness can be found here.

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