Another Excellent Article on Preparedness and Emergencies
*It is the author’s intent that the following information be used in combination with the reader’s own personal knowledge, discernment and continued research. The following information is intended to provide a general reference for the community.*
We are accustomed to a standard of living that could not be imagined by our great grandparents, only a few decades ago. Within the past 150 years the invention of, what we now consider common every day items, such as the automobile, grocery and department stores, radios, television and cell phones were invented. The advances in transportation, communication, agriculture, medicine and technology have truly led to the standard of living we are used to. The infrastructure of today’s society that facilitates this high standard of living is, to a degree, fragile. One only has to look back in our own country’s recent history to understand this; from terrorist attacks and economic stress to natural and man made disasters, all of which can threaten our way of life.
This is not meant to instill fear, but rather to inform. Ask your self this question, “Am I and my family prepared for an emergency if and when it should strike?” Taking a little time now to create a plan and to ensure you have some basic items stored in your home can save you time, money and eliminate the stress of having to decide what to do after an emergency or disaster as occurred. Having the foresight to prepare now for future uncertainties provides you with better options. For example, an extended power outage occurs and you already have a supply of food and water on hand you would not have to immediately rush out to the store and deal with the large crowds franticly trying to buy up whatever is left on the shelves. The idea that “I don’t need to plan or prepare for an emergency because, if the situation becomes out of control, I’ll just call 911” is not only irresponsible and foolish, it could actually put you, your loved ones, and others in danger. Think about some of the recent disasters around the globe.
Relying on government assistance to save you in an emergency may not happen when you need it most. Although the government will be doing what it can, many times the manpower, funds and resources to assist those in need will not be available to help everyone immediately. So, why take the risk of relying on others for your family’s well being? Take the responsibility of preparing now, so you do not have to worry when the time comes. By reading through this information you are taking the first step in planning for your family’s safety in a time of crisis. The following are a few of the most likely emergencies our community could face and should offer some ideas to aid you in creating your family emergency plan.
Most of us can recall the recent snow storms that affected our community. With the experiences of storms fresh in our minds one can certainly understand the importance of being prepared for an emergency. In the event of another severe winter storm, the best option is usually to remain in your home for the duration of the storm. If you have an emergency kit already in your home, your family will likely be able to wait out the storm in relative comfort for several days, or weeks. During a winter storm a heat source that does not require electricity is key, because the possibility of wide spread power outages is likely. The use of charcoal, gas or propane heaters is not a safe alternative as a source of heat for indoor use because of the health hazard caused by the toxic vapors they emit during use. For the same reason, if you use a generator, keep it outside or ensure that it is properly ventilated. Other suggestions for waiting out a blizzard in your home include:
- Purchase a snow shovel and a supply of rock salt or salt before a storm is forecasted.
- Place weather stripping around doors and windows to aid in keeping cold air from entering your home
- Seal off unused rooms to help conserve your fuel supply for your heat source.
- If working outside, avoid exerting yourself to the point of sweating. Hypothermia will quickly set in if you are unable to find shelter and dry off.
- If you lose the ability to heat your home, gather everyone into a south facing room in your home. This will take advantage of the suns natural warmth as it tracks across the sky.
- Remember if a state of emergency is declared you will most likely not be allowed to travel on any public roadways.
This is an emergency situation that can occur at any time of the year, and usually without warning. A power outage scenario does not necessarily constitute an emergency, however, if the electricity is out for an unusually long period of time problems could arise. A safe solution in this type of situation is similar to the strategy previously discussed for a blizzard. The idea is to remain in your home and wait out the power outage. Again, if you have prepared your household for an emergency, your only concern will be how to keep the kids entertained. Of course, if the loss of electricity occurs in the summer or winter months, special attention will be required to meet the needs of any elderly or young children in your home. But, for the most part, this situation is a waiting game for the power to come back on and return life to normal.
The chance of flooding is always a possibility, whether caused by heavy rain, a hurricane or water swells. Remaining calm and using common sense will probably get you through the experience. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Know how to get to higher ground, just a few feet could make the difference.
- Move valuables and water sensitive belongings off the floor and place items as high as possible
- Do not attempt to walk through fast moving more than six inches deep.
- Do not attempt to drive through a flooded area or washed out roadway.
- If your vehicle stalls in deep water, do not remain in the vehicle to wait for assistance. Get out immediately and wait on higher ground.
- Continue to scan for updates on current events in the flood zone.
- Avoid contact with flood water if possible; the water could be contaminated with any number of hazardous materials.
- If you do come in contact with flood water, sanitize yourself and clothes as soon as practicable.
- Do not hesitate to evacuate if instructed to do so by authorities.
Hurricane season lasts from June through November, with the peak activity from mid-august to November. The most critical decision you will be faced with when a hurricane is forecasted to hit your town will be the decision to evacuate. When the time comes for you to make this decision, the choice will be less stressful if you already have a plan and the resources in place for your family. First case scenario, you have decided to remain in your home until the storm blows over. Here are some suggestions to consider in addition to the general preparations you have made for an emergency.
- Take steps to protect your home and property from storm damage. Board up and brace doors and windows. Securely fasten or remove items in your yard that might cause damage or be destroyed.
- Prior to the arrival of the storm, fill the fuel tank in your vehicle(s)
- You may be instructed to turn off the valves to your utilities. Learn how to properly turn them on and shut them off.
- Remain in a small room in the center of your home
- Stay away from windows and glass doors
- Drink bottled water and try to avoid tap water until deemed safe
- Use hand and eye protection if you have to go out during the storm and when cleaning after the inclement weather passes.
- Continually scan radio or TV news broadcasts for any updates in your area.
- Photograph any damage to your property caused by the storm to report to your insurance company.
Second case scenario, you have decided to leave the area before the hurricane arrives. The sooner you decide to leave, the easier the endeavor will be for you and your family. This temporary relocation will be less hectic if you already have a family emergency plan established. Having a prearranged location with a family member or friend out of your local area and the route to reach your destination will be most helpful. Because you are already prepares, all you have to do is grab your family emergency kit, load the family in the car, and go.
No matter what type of emergency or disaster you may be faced with, the basic principles are similar. You will have to decide if you should leave and take your family to a safer location, and if so, it is a good idea to have a plan already in place. If you decide to remain in your home for the duration of the emergency, do you have the knowledge and resources to safely do so? Are you prepared?
Being prepared does not require thousands of dollars spent stockpiling goods and years of advanced training to ensure your family gets through an emergency. Here are some ideas to help get you started and begin thinking about what your family will require should an emergency occur.
First, create a Family Emergency Plan (FEP). In order to make you FEP effective, you have to make it specific to your family’s particular needs and requirements. Take into account any special needs like; young children, elderly parents and pets. Do you have the particular items on hand in quantities that will last several days? Do you have a means to transport your family if you have to evacuate the area? When creating your FEP it is a good idea to put together a folder or binder that contains some key items such as; copies of important documents (driver’s license, marriage certificates, diplomas, titles, ect). A list of important addresses and phone numbers (to family members, friends, schools, employers and doctors) is also important. Maps of the area you might need to travel through, and even photographs of family members to help locate them if they are missing are a good idea. It is vital that your FEP to have several contingency plans for evacuating the home, if the need arises. This should incorporate the routes to family and friends whom you have pre-arranged to meet in an emergency. These thought out locations should offer your family a safer alternative to your home, whether that simply means temporarily moving out of the path of a large storm or relocating to where more resources will be available to sustain your family. There are many unforeseen reasons why leaving your home could provide a safer environment for your family. Keep in mind if the emergency requires you to evacuate, it is likely many others will be attempting to do the same. This will cause major traffic congestion. This is when a well thought out evacuation plan is needed. Deciding where you are going to travel as early as possible and having several alternative routes mapped out will aid you in avoiding traffic.
The second important aspect of preparing for an emergency or disaster is simply having some common items in your home that will always be available. The following is a list of just some of the items that could be useful in an emergency. You may need to add to or subtract from this list as dictated by your family’s needs.
- Food (at least a three day supply)
- Water (at least a three day supply, and a means to produce more purified drinking water as needed)
- Radio ( with NOAA bands and extra batteries and/or a hand crank)
- Flashlight(s) and/or lamp (with extra batteries)
- First aid kit (with plenty of extra bandages, gauzes and triple antibiotic ointment)
- Signaling tools (whistle or small mirror)
- Duct tape and cordage
- Pad of paper and pens/pencils/markers
- Paper or plastic plates, cups and utensils
- Hand sanitizer
- Garbage bags
- Miscellaneous hand tools (pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, knife, can opener, tweezers, ect.)
- Disposable camera
- Copy of your Family Emergency Plan
- Extra prescription medications
- Hygiene items (tooth brush/paste and deodorant)
- Pet food
- A heat source and extra layers of clothing
Again, this is not by any means a complete list of everything one could need in a disaster, but rather a good place to start. Your emergency kit should be kept in a secure location where it can be easily accessed if you need to leave at a moments notice. To easily facilitate this, place the most basic and important items in a container or bag that can be comfortably worn in the event of an emergency evacuation.
Third be prepared for any emergency or disaster by staying informed and up to date on the events happening around you. You must be able to adapt and improvise to meet your goals. Even the most well thought out plan can go awry with unforeseen events. So, being able to think of a safe and practical solution is a matter of creativity and determination to persevere through the crisis.
The intent of this article is to provide you with information that will aid you in creating an emergency plan for you and your loved ones. If you are willing to plan ahead of time, you will be more likely to get through any ordeal safely. The following are links that can help you further your knowledge in emergency preparedness
- Red Cross – www.redcross.org
- Federal Emergency Management Agency – www.fema.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – www.emergency.cdc.gov/prepardness
- Planning Ideas – www.ready.gov
- Dept. of Homeland Security – www.dhs.gov
- U.S. Fire Administration – www.usfa.dhs.gov
- U.S. Dept. of Energy – www.energy.gov
- Environmental Protection Agency – www.epa.gov
- National Weather Service – www.nws.noaa.gov
- Institute for Business & Home Safety – www.disastersafety.org
- National Flood Insurance Program – www.floodsmart.gov