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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Preparing for the worst

Rural family determined to be ready if disaster strikes, but few actually are

November 7, 2005

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If disaster strikes, Denise Sawyer will be ready.

Sawyer has hundreds of pounds of wheat, beans, soup mixes, sauces, canned vegetables and other dry goods tucked into a storage room in her rural home south of Lawrence.

It's enough food to last a full year.

"It's like a mini-warehouse," Sawyer said.

Sawyer is a model of disaster preparedness, something that U.S. Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff this week called a "civic virtue." But for Sawyer, it's also a religious virtue: She serves as the "emergency preparedness specialist" for the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"Our church has always encouraged us to have a year's supply on hand in case there's a national emergency. Then you could help your neighbors no matter what," she said.

Denise Sawyer, who resides south of Lawrence, displays some of the non-perishable items that she and her husband, Duane, have stored in a room in their basement in the event of an emergency or disaster situation. The Sawyers have stockpiled a year's worth of food, 275 gallons of water and various other items as a preparedness measure.

Denise Sawyer, who resides south of Lawrence, displays some of the non-perishable items that she and her husband, Duane, have stored in a room in their basement in the event of an emergency or disaster situation. The Sawyers have stockpiled a year's worth of food, 275 gallons of water and various other items as a preparedness measure.

Going to such lengths may seem excessive to some people. But Paula Phillips, director of Douglas County Emergency Management, wishes that in general, more people would take personal responsibility for being disaster-ready.

Phillips regularly preaches that citizens should at least pack an "emergency kit" full of basic items - ready-to-eat food, toiletries, extra clothes - to help them survive if they're forced to leave home suddenly. But she estimated that 10 percent or fewer of people in the Lawrence area were heeding the message.

The Sawyers have shelves filled with jars of vegetables and sauces.

The Sawyers have shelves filled with jars of vegetables and sauces.

"It's a mindset. It's an approach to life," she said. "To me, it's a no-brainer."

A well-stocked kit can cost $50 to $75 to put together - and that's not including the $25 to $50 in cash Phillips recommends putting away.

"You put together what you can, and that's better than nothing," she said.

The Mormon church plans to share some of its expertise during a free "preparedness fair" Nov. 12 that will teach people how to make a 72-hour survival kit. The event also will include agencies such as the Red Cross and Douglas County Emergency Management.

Kay Rytting, a spokeswoman for the local church, said the group's philosophy is that people should be able to take care of themselves in an emergency, then reach out to others as much as they can.

"Of course, the people in New Orleans that were members of the church lost their home and their supply," she said. "Hopefully, they took their 72-hour kit with them and had a little up on everyone else and saved the Red Cross from having to serve them."

Comments

Debbie Guy Spreer 9 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like an excellent idea to me. How about posting a supply list online for those of us who would be unable to attend the "fair".

Dayna Lee 9 years, 1 month ago

Heyitsme-all you have to do is ask one of the members of the church when they come and knock on your door. I'm sure they'd be glad to help you.

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