It’s easy to feel safe and protected on campus, but that sense of security will vanish if disaster strikes and you’re not prepared. Over the last month, college students and their families (including my own) affected by Hurricane Sandy quickly learned the importance of preparation. Below are five essentials all students need in their rooms to maximize safety in the event of a disaster.
1. Flashlights and batteries: Easily forgotten until a power outage sends you scrambling for supplies, flashlights and batteries should be a staple in every back-to-school duffel bag — especially since candles are prohibited in dorm rooms.
2. Cellphone car charger: Whether you have a car or not, this inexpensive accessory might be the only way to help you connect in the event of an extensive power outage. Back-up battery packs can also provide an additional piece of security for continued communication. Note: In emergency situations where contact might be limited, leave a message on your cellphone with an update (i.e. “This is Jess. I am fine but have limited cell service/battery power. I will turn my phone on again at 3 p.m.”).
3. Contact sheet: Students and their parents should have an extensive printed phone list that includes numbers for roommates, friends and their parents (online address books are great, but what if your computer or phone battery dies?). Phone trees may sound like a middle school idea, but in an emergency, they can save time, preserve cell batteries and help alleviate needless worrying. The contact information for resources near campus including local friends and acquaintances should also be added to this database.
4. Water and medication: It’s important to always have the basics. Water systems can be shut down or compromised in a disaster and you may have limited or no access to pharmacies for your prescription or over-the-counter medication needs. Keep these things on hand and don’t wait until the last second to phone in a prescription refill.
5. Cash: What if all of the ATMs were down? Would you have enough money for food or transportation if you needed to leave campus? After Hurricane Sandy, upon learning of an impending nor’easter, New York University administrators suggested that students have $100 in cash for emergency purposes. While this may sound like an extravagance, it could be a lifesaver in a catastrophic situation. Whether it’s $100 or $20, having a little cash on hand never hurts.
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