The most important part of emergency preparedness involves
communications: Every family member whether at home, school, work, or
just out, needs to know where to go, what to do, and who to try to
contact in the event of a disaster. Telephone lines might be down, cell
phone service might be out, and there may be no access to the Internet.
In the absence of all normal methods of communication, each family
member should have a plan, and a back-up plan or two. People who
unexpectedly need to evacuate their homes might leave messages on the
refrigerator or a bulletin board. Each family should designate a friend
or family member in another location to act as intermediary if direct
communication becomes impossible. You might also want to specify a
location away from your home where family members might try to meet, or
at least leave notes for one another.
Find out the protocol in your children's schools in the event of
disaster. This is necessary information for your family plan.
Family members should know all possible ways to escape from every room
in the house. That might mean purchasing emergency ladders for second
stories, or learning how to go down from a second story window using
sheets. Everyone should also know more than one way to get home from
wherever it is they spend the day.
Prepare an emergency supply kit to last for three days. That is the
time it generally takes for emergency services to reach full strength.
Make a list of things you know you will want in this kit and post the
list on your refrigerator. If an item is not in the kit itself, note
exactly where it is so that you can find it quickly.
The contents of the kit should be customized for your family and for
the kind of disasters most likely to happen. If you need to escape on
foot, you will not be able to carry as much as you would in a car.
Modify the contents of the kit based on your climate, on family
members, on where you will try to go, and how you will get there. You
might also be staying in your house in one room or the basement.
Think of the
items below as examples of what might be needed:
Packaged ready to eat food
Water in sealed containers/ purifying tablets
First aid supplies - bandages, tape, antibiotic cream,
Extra glasses or contacts, hearing aid batteries
Sunscreen, lip balm
Medical information, prescriptions, medications
Tent (plastic trash bags can be improvised)
Matches or lighter
Warm clothing, poncho, blanket, or sleeping bags,
Cell phone and chargers
Photos of family members
Copies of birth certificates, passports
Spare keys for car, house
Personal sanitation/hygiene supplies
Supplies for baby (diapers, formula, food)
Learn about your local area. Are there designated shelters for
disasters? People who live in tornado prone areas should identify the
best place to take shelter at home, work, school, or other frequented
areas. Those who live on or near the coast should figure out how best
to get above sea level in a hurry.
Prepare your house for likely emergencies. People who live in
earthquake prone areas will want to pay special attention to securing
bookshelves and other furniture to the walls. Replacing incandescent
bulbs with halogens or fluorescent fixtures minimize the danger of
fire. What about your computers, televisions, and other loose heavy
items? Can you put items on non-slip mats to minimize their moving
around? Can you put smaller items which might move around in latched
cabinets? If you strap your hot water heater to the wall, it is less
likely to break and it could be a source of clean water.
A building contractor might be able to identify structural weaknesses
in your home which you could fix in advance.
Everyone should have a source of light that is not dependent on the
electricity being on.
Stay informed about weather-related disasters. Know the difference
between a "watch" and a "warning." Heed sirens or other local signals.
"Drop, Cover, and Hold On." Make sure everyone in your family knows how
to drop to the floor, take cover under sturdy desk or table, and hang
on to the furniture. This advice might be helpful in an earthquake or
in a tornado.
After a calamity, check for injuries, administer first aid and then
note damage to gas, water, sewage, and electrical lines. If you keep a
wrench next to the gas shut-off, you can easily turn it off. Know how
to turn off other services as well.
Use your portable radio for updates on disaster information and safety
advisories. Don't use up your batteries for entertainment. Keep a deck
of cards or other amusements in your kit.
Decide in advance of disasters what to do about pets.
Enroll in that first aid course you have been meaning to take.
Does everyone know where the fire extinguisher is and how to operate
Have an occasional family meeting to update your plans, and the
contents of your kit.
Why not copy the article,
print it out, pin it up somewhere and read it regularly. Act on the
bits most likely to affect you and give a copy to your friends and each
of your family members. HNT
"We cannot be both the
world's leading champion of peace and the world's leading supplier of
the weapons of war". - President Jimmy Carter