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A well-stocked emergency kit can be the key to proper preparedness. Here are some of the most often heard questions about emergency supplies:

Where do you put them? Can they be easily moved? How do you minimize pilferage? How often do you do inventory and restock? What kind of training is available? What should be in a kit or cabinet?

Here are some answers.

In every office and most work environments there are the common four-drawer file cabinets. When well identified, these are good locations for your disaster/emergency supplies. Two cardboard boxes, 25' by 13' x 4.5' will stack in most file drawers. The top box can be marked 'A: First Aid'; the second box can be marked 'B: Rescue.' Each box should be sealed and have a label indicating the contents. Also instructions for notifying proper authorities when the seal is broken should be provided. Filament tape, adhered to the bottom center, brought up each side with a 6' twisted loop, can provide a carrying handle. To find the proper containers, check your yellow pages for 'boxes.'

A distinctive label can be made by photocopying on florescent pink paper and cutting it to fit the drawer label holder. 'Disaster/Emergency Supplies' is an example of the way the box can be labeled.

Information pasted on the side can include basic instructions such as the following:
Medical experts say in a catastrophic event, most lives will be saved by three simple steps.

1. Open the airway (tilt the head)
2. Stop bleeding (apply pressure and elevate)
3. Anti-shock position (elevate feet)

First aid supplies, adhesive bandages, tape and 4x4 sterile bandages should be available outside the sealed box for day-to-day first aid needs.

All floor warden and key personnel should have standard first aid training available from your local Red Cross Chapter or other sources.

An annual inventory should be made. You may not have to touch the sealed boxes, unless you are replacing batteries or medicaments. In many cases, it is easier to return all opened boxes to central supply and replace them with full sealed boxes.

Recommended supplies for 'Box A: First Aid Box'
(a suggestion for 25 people):
Item Amount
Adhesive tape 3 rolls 1 at 1', 2 at 2'
Adhesive bandages Package of 50 1'
Elastic bandage 3
Gauze bandages (sterile) 25 at 3x3, 10 at 4x4, 10 at 2x2
Eyepads (sterile) 5
Sanitary napkins 12 individually wrapped
Triangular bandages 5
Cold packs 5 small
Splints 2 18' cardboard
Alcohol preps 50
Anti-diarrhea tablets 1 pkg. 24
Antiseptic 1 bottle, 8 ounce
Bicarbonate of soda 1 box
Pain reliever, non-aspirin 1 bottle of 50
Saline solution (eyewash) 1 bottle
Bulb syringe 1
Scissors 5 1/2' bandage 2 pair
Tweezers 1
Latex gloves 6 pair
Food and water as space allows

In addition, your local medical advisor should recommend supplies for your facilities and staff.

Recommended supplies for 'B: Rescue Box' include:
Flash lights with extra batteries 2
Hatchet 1
Hammer, claw 1
Plastic sheeting 2 packages
Plastic bags (waterproof) 24
50 foot 5/16' rope 1
Whistle 1
Swiss army knife 1
Emergency blankets 6

These boxes, strategically placed in your facilities, can be the start of your 'do-it-yourself disaster preparedness plan.'

Pete Ashen is the emergency services manager for the San Francisco Red Cross and the founder of Disaster Preparedness Information Council (DPIC).