KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The Red Cross wants people to be prepared for natural disasters.

And the organization is using March, which is Red Cross Month, to get out the word.

“Whenever there is a natural disaster, people know that Red Cross will be there to help,” said Traciee Huff, the Kadena Air Base Red Cross assistant station manager.

But people should “prepare in advance” just in case, Huff said.

A simple preparation is assembling a natural disaster emergency kit, she said.

The kit, which can be stored in an old suitcase or box, should include such obvious items as nonperishable food, water, flashlights and batteries and several changes of clothes, said Amanda Meadows, a Red Cross volunteer.

The kit should also include copies of passports, birth certificates and other important documents, Meadows said.

“Especially in a foreign country,” she stressed, “you should have as much ID as possible to prove your identity as an American citizen.”

Parents of infants should keep formula, diapers and baby essentials in the kit, Meadows said.

People should check their kits periodically to see if anything has expired, she said.

Additionally, servicemembers should ensure relatives know how to contact them at their current duty station, said Amanda Paladino, the head volunteer for Red Cross at Kadena.

Servicemembers move so often that sometimes they forget to make sure loved ones back home know how to get in touch with them, said Paladino, a military spouse. Red Cross can help there, too, she said.

Any Red Cross office can provide an envelope with a form to record vital contact information, Paladino said, adding that it’s a simple matter of mailing the envelope to family members.

During a natural disaster, it can be difficult to reach people in the disaster area by phone, Huff said, advising servicemembers to know about the Safe and Well page on the Red Cross Web site, “So if families back home see something on the news and get concerned but can’t get through on the phones, you can go to this site and post messages to let your family know that you are OK,” she said.

Meadows said the important thing in preparing for disaster is to be proactive, not reactive.

“When you don’t know what to do, you panic,” she said, “but with a little knowledge, you can handle just about anything.”

Some Red Cross services

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — In addition to natural disaster relief, the Red Cross wants the military community to know it has other important missions.

¶ Emergency communication network — The Red Cross is responsible for sending messages to military commands to notify servicemembers that they rate emergency leave to return home, said Traciee Huff, the Red Cross assistant station manager at Kadena Air Base.

¶ Volunteering — Amanda Paladino, a military spouse who is the head volunteer at the Kadena Red Cross office, has found that volunteering with Red Cross has helped her transition into a new community.

“My first and foremost benefit has been a social network,” Paladino said. “Just to meet people with the same and different interests. It’s definitely helped.”

¶ Health and safety — For example, Red Cross provides seasonal safety messages and offers safety classes such as CPR and first aid, Huff said.

— Cindy Fisher

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