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Red Cross says to always be prepared in case of emergencies

Earthquakes. Floods. Wildfires. Electric grid system collapse. No matter the disaster, it’s wise to be prepared at all times.

A free class is planned to give Las Vegas residents a hand in emergency preparedness at 2 p.m. Oct. 7 at Summerlin Library, 1771 Inner Circle Drive.

The most common type of Southern Nevada disaster is fire, according to the American Red Cross. On average, the Red Cross responds to one every 20 hours, mostly at homes and apartments, according to Frank Rutkowski, public information officer for the Utah and Nevada region of the Red Cross.

There are “preventative measures to make sure you don’t have a home fire,” Rutkowski said. “Candles can be blown out; make sure you are not grilling under an overhang; that kind of thing. But if it’s electrical, or (starts) in another apartment, you can’t control that.”

Smoke alarms have been proven lifesavers. The Red Cross recommends putting one on every floor of your home and in important areas . Check them monthly by pressing a button to ensure they sound and change the batteries annually (smoke alarms last about 10 years). The Red Cross has a free smoke alarm program. For more information, visit redcross.org.

No matter the disaster, it’s wise to keep a preparedness bag by the door. Rutkowski said it should contain a three-day supply of water for people and pets, a three-day supply of non-perishables such as canned food, a can opener, and seven days’ worth of prescription medication. Ensure those medicines have not expired. It should also include a flashlight and a hand crank radio.

The Red Cross’ Pillowcase Project was born out of Hurricane Katrina when people threw necessary items into pillowcases to escape the rising waters. Today, the Red Cross goes into schools to teach children what items should go into their pillowcases.

The Red Cross also has an emergency app for smartphones that will give area updates should there be a natural disaster, as well as list Red Cross shelter locations. And the organization has the Family Safe app to alert family members in other cities that you are safe.

Another way to prepare is to take a course. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) grew out of the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 and now has more than 2,600 programs teaching people how to prepare and react in various disaster situations. It offers up to 20 free courses each year throughout Southern Nevada at community centers, churches and other facilities. Participants receive a backpack with essential items for an emergency. Visit www.nvcert.org.

After a natural disaster, homeowners might encounter fraudulent repair people. Jennifer Lewis, public information officer for the Nevada State Contractors Board, warned residents to do their homework.

“When neighborhoods are affected, you’ll see a lot of unlicensed contractors going door to door (to try to get work),” Lewis said. “They know homeowners are in a vulnerable, emergency state and they need services done, like, now. With that comes high-priced sales tactics or ‘too-good-to-be-true’ deals, pressure sales tactics — ‘sign now, it’s a today only deal.’ And we want homeowners to proceed cautiously and do their research.”

A licensed contractor is issued an ID card and their license number typically has about five numbers preceded by two zeroes, she said.

Lewis also suggested having an emergency contractor list already prepared so there’s not a mad dash to find a qualified person should a disaster strike. Visit nscb.nv.gov.

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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