© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2003
ODESSA -- When it comes to disasters, few people are as ready as Mormons.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long encouraged members to stock up on food supplies and be ready for whatever. It's not uncommon for members to have hundreds of jars of canned vegetables or power bars in their pantries, or purses that double as first-aid kits.
But even Mormons can learn a new emergency planning tip or two. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they say, one can never be too prepared.
"When I was a boy, we were taught these principles," said Dennis Walker of Land O' Lakes. "But more recently, there's a greater awareness. We see why."
Walker was one of 30 members of the Mormon church in Odessa who met in the church auditorium Saturday for an American Red Cross workshop on disaster planning. Since 9/11, the Red Cross has held hundreds of similar workshops around the country, and a dozen or so in the Tampa Bay area.
Mormons aren't the only ones taking disaster tips to heart.
For many families, having an emergency plan is "like a smoke alarm for the psyche," said Niki Paksoy, spokeswoman for the Red Cross's Tampa Bay chapter.
Church members listened as a representative suggested that candles aren't good for a first-aid kit (they're a fire hazard); 2-liter soda bottles are better than gallon containers for storing water (the latter will eventually crack and leak); and a milk jug can be stuffed with enough food to last three days.
"It won't be gourmet eating," said emergency services specialist Jeanette Chavez, "but you'll be alive."
The Mormon church wants all its families to have a three-month supply of food by year's end.
Church leaders came up with the idea during the Great Depression, Walker said, to encourage families to support themselves without government help.
To find out about Red Cross workshops, call 813-348-4820 or toll free 1-877-741-1444.