Just when you were getting prepared for a Code Orange, along came a "code white" -- 28 inches of snow that even duct tape was powerless against.
Now the snow crisis is past (we hope), but the Code Orange is still around. Anyone assembling a "home disaster kit" will find that the government's advice has, like the weather, changed and calmed down a bit.
Duct tape barely rates a mention in the latest advice, available on a new Homeland Security Depart-ment Web site -- www.ready.gov. But some new items have appeared, including face masks, home air purifiers, whistles -- even moist towelettes.
The newly packaged advice, part of a public education campaign by the department, plays down duct tape and plastic sheeting. Instead it focuses on three areas -- having an emergency kit, having family plans for every contingency, and staying informed.
Here are the highlights:
* Assemble a disaster kit, containing:
Three-day supply of nonperishable food, such as canned fruits and meats, peanut butter, snack bars and crackers; three days worth of water (one gallon per person per day); battery-operated radio, with extra batteries; flashlight; first-aid supplies; manual can opener.
Blankets, change of clothes, coat, hat, gloves, sturdy shoes; pliers, wrench, matches, paper, pencil, signal flare, aluminum foil, compass, fire extinguisher, paper towels.
Cash or traveler's checks; toilet paper; personal hygiene items; plastic garbage bags or large plastic bucket with tight lid (for personal sanitation); soap, bleach, disinfectant; medications, including prescription drugs; important family documents.
Map of your area; whistle to signal for help; moist towelettes; filter masks; scissors, duct tape and plastic (precut) to cover doors, windows and vents in room used as shelter, if so notified.
* Other advice for families:
Learn community's warning signals and evacuation routes; learn location of emergency shelters, if any; discuss steps to be taken in different types of disasters; learn and discuss emergency plans at schools and workplaces; arrange a meeting place in case family members get separated.
Post emergency phone numbers by all phones; show all family members how to turn off utilities; make an additional disaster kit to keep in car; listen to television or radio for instructions.
* In a chemical attack:
Get away without passing through the contaminated area, if possible; if contamination is suspected, remove clothing and wash with soap if possible and seek emergency medical attention.
If not in the affected area, take steps to "shelter in place"; turn off all ventilation (fans, heating, air conditioning); seek shelter in an internal room (preferably without windows, but not the basement); bring disaster kit with you. If so advised, seal room with duct tape and heavy plastic sheeting; cover cracks, windows and doorways. A sealed-off space of 10 square feet per person will provide sufficient air for five hours. Seal cracks under the door, and any vents. Listen to radio for official instructions.
* In a biological attack:
If contact is suspected, get away from the source, upwind of contaminated area, and quickly find shelter. If you suspect contact with biological agent, cover mouth and nose with mask or two to three layers of fabric to filter the air, wash with soap and water, and contact authorities. Listen to radio and television for further instructions.
* In a nuclear or radiological attack:
Take shelter immediately in the most reinforced shelter available; at home, most likely your basement; if outside, get several blocks from explosion and take immediate shelter in an underground area, or middle of a large building.
Listen to the radio for instructions on whether to evacuate or shelter in place; if leaving, take disaster kit and lock house; if contamination is suspected, drive with windows and vents closed, and air conditioning or heating off.