How to Protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Property in a Disaster
It is 3:00 AM and suddenly you are awakened by your community’s early warning system, sounding the siren that you are in the path of a tornado.
You are sitting at your desk on the fifteenth floor of your office building when you feel the building begin to shake and shudder under the stress of an earthquake.
A smoke alarm goes off on the second floor of your two-story home where your children are sleeping. Would you know what to do in the case of a natural disaster? Follow these guidelines for preparation and implementing an action plan if you should find yourself in the midst of a catastrophe.
Tornado – In 2008, the United States had a confirmed count of 1,691 tornadoes. Would you know what to do? Let’s debunk some myths and get the facts to keep you and your family safe in the case of a tornado.
Myth – You should open the windows when a tornado is coming. Fact – Time is of the essence and opening the windows will not save your home if it is in the path of an oncoming storm.
Flying debris has been known to strike people that are attempting to open windows. Myth – You should always get into the southwest corner of the room as tornadoes move to the northeast.
Fact – Tornadoes are not straight-line winds and can approach from any direction. You should always get to the lowest level of your home.
The best place to be is under a heavy workbench or protected by a heavy mattress. If you do not have access to a basement, go to the lowest level of your home and get into the bathroom or safe room such as a small closet.
Protect yourself with a mattress or heavy blankets. Myth – You should get under an overpass during a tornado.
Fact – Winds from a tornado can damage bridges and overpasses and the girders that hold them. Debris can fly under bridges as well. The winds from a tornado can sweep you out from under the bridge or overpass and your chances of survival are lowered significantly. Once the storm has dissipated, do not light cigarettes or candles as gas leaks may occur from damaged lines.
Your tornado preparedness kit should contain: Flashlight for each person that lives in your home, bottled water, a first aid kit, an emergency battery operated radio, extra batteries, prepared canned foods, baby and pet foods if necessary, an alternate cooking source such as camp stove only to be used when all gas appliances are off, a pipe wrench to turn off water, a fire extinguisher, blankets and pillows, at least one change of clothes for everyone, cash (as ATM’s may not work due to power outages), paper and pen or pencil, and a list of emergency phone numbers.
Earthquake – Although most earthquakes occur somewhere along a fault line, they can occur anywhere at any time. Would you know what to do in the case of an earthquake?
If an earthquake occurs while you are indoors, stay there. Get under a desk or table or brace yourself against an interior wall. Stay away from exterior walls, heavy furniture, glass, fireplaces, and appliances. The kitchen is the most dangerous room to be in during an earthquake. If you are in an office, stay away from windows and move to an interior wall.
Do not use the elevators. If you are outdoors, move into an open area away from buildings and power lines. If you are in a vehicle, move out of traffic and try to get to an area away from trees and power lines.
Do not sit on a bridge or get under a bridge or overpass. If you are in a public place, do not panic and run for an exit. Move to an interior wall, squat or sit down on the floor and protect your head with your arms. After an earthquake, do not light any matches, candles, or cigarettes.
Emergency crews will be very busy and you may need to be prepared to wait three or more days for them to get to your area. Remember, aftershocks can occur and are often nearly as powerful as the quake itself so be prepared to return to your safe place.
After an earthquake, listen to your radio for further instructions, check for fire and fire hazards, if you smell gas, shut off the main valves in your home. If you see damage to electrical wires, shut the main power source off.
Your earthquake preparedness kit should include: One gallon of water per person per day for three days, first aid kit, flashlights for everyone in your home, extra batteries, a battery operated radio, prepared canned foods, baby and pet foods, alternate cooking source, a pipe wrench, extra clothing and shoes for each person, cash, blankets and pillows, a fire extinguisher, paper and pen or pencil, and a list of emergency phone numbers.
Hurricane – Hurricanes are among the most predictable natural disasters and thus you have a bit more time to prepare. Secure your property with permanent storm shutters or board your windows with 5/8″ marine plywood. To protect your roof, install roof straps to secure it to the building’s foundation.
Trim the trees and shrubs around your home. You should pay close attention to the weather forecast and be prepared for landfall times. If your local authorities suggest evacuation, you should be prepared to leave your home. If you are staying in your home, fill the bathtub and sink with water.
Turn your refrigerator to its lowest setting and only open the door when absolutely necessary to help protect its contents from getting too warm. Turn off your utilities and close the valve on propane tanks.
You should shut all interior doors in your home and go to a safe room such as a small closet, the bathroom, or hallway away from windows. After the hurricane has dissipated, you should make sure everyone in your household is safe and free from injury.
Watch out for broken glass and slippery floors. Your hurricane preparedness kit should include: Bottled water, a gallon per person per day for three days, prepared canned foods, baby and pet foods, an alternate cooking source, flashlights, extra batteries, a battery operated radio, a pipe wrench, extra clothing, cash, blankets and pillows, a fire extinguisher, paper and pen or pencil, a list of emergency phone numbers.
Home Fire – A home fire is the most common of natural disasters and the best way to prepare for this is to have a solid plan of action. Map an escape route through your home and practice this with your family often enough that they will automatically call themselves to action should a fire occur.
If your home has two or more stories, you may need to purchase a rope ladder that can be tossed from the window for quick and safe escape. Call your local fire department for more information on rope ladders and their availability.
It is vital to use good common sense in the event that a natural disaster strikes you or your family. Pay close attention to health hazards; use gloves and heavy work boots during clean-up, wash your hands often, and drink only bottled water. It is also important to remember to pace yourself and do not get exhausted while cleaning up your home or business.
With any natural disaster, it is normal to be affected by it emotionally. You may encounter sadness or grief, a feeling of helplessness and loss. Crisis counseling is available through FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Association, and you should contact them if prolonged emotional stress is affecting you or your loved ones.
For additional information on natural disasters and how to be prepared, contact FEMA at www.fema.gov.