What You and Your Family Can to be Ready for an Emergency
Preparing Makes Sense. The likelihood that you and your family will survive a house fire depends as much on having a working smoke detector and an exit strategy, as on a well-trained fire department. The same is true for surviving a tornado, flood, terrorist attack, or other emergency. We must have the tools and plans in place to make it our own, at least for a period time, no matter where we are when disaster strikes. Just like having a working smoke detector, preparing for the unexpected makes sense. Here are three steps that will help you be more prepared.
1. Get a Kit of Emergency Supplies
Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer. While there are many things that might make you more comfortable, think first about fresh water, food, and clean air. Remember to include, and periodically rotate, medications you take every day such as insulin and heart medicine. Plan to store items in an easy-to-carry bag, such as a shopping bag, backpack, or duffle bag.
Consider two kits. In one put everything you will need to stay where you are and make it on your own. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you have to get away.
You’ll need a gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation in clean plastic containers. During the warm weather months, more water may be necessary. Include in the kits a three day supply of non-perishable foods that are easy to store and do not have to be cooked. Choose foods that your family will eat including protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola, canned food and juices, peanut butter, dried fruits, nuts, crackers, and baby food. Remember to pack a manual can opener, cups, and eating utensils. During cold weather months, include warm clothes and a sleeping bag for each member of the family.
Some potential terrorist attacks or hazardous material spills could send tiny microscopic “junk” into the air. Many of these materials can only hurt you if they get into your body, so think about creating a barrier between yourself and any contamination. Be prepared to improvise with what you have on hand to protect your nose, mouth, eyes, and cuts in your skin. Anything that fits snugly over your nose and mouth, including any dense-weave cotton material, can help filter contaminants in an emergency. It is very important that most of the air you breathe comes through the mask or cloth, not around it. Do whatever you can to make the best fit for children. There are a variety of face masks readily available in hardware stores that are rated based on how small a particle they can filter in an industrial setting.
Have heavyweight garbage bags or plastic sheeting, duct tape and scissors in your kit. You can use these things to tape up windows, doors, and air vents if you need to seal off a room from outside contamination. Consider precutting and labeling these materials. Anything you can do in advance will save time when it counts.
Recommended Supplies to Include in a Basic Kit:
- One gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation
- At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery powered radio and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
- Moist towelettes for sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Infant formula and diapers if you have an infant
- Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Regular and necessary medications if you or your family take any
- Other unique family needs
2. Make a Plan for What You Will Do in an Emergency
You should plan in advance what you will do in an emergency. Be prepared to assess the situation. Use common sense and whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Develop a Family Communication Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. Consider a plan where each family member calls or e-mails the same friend or relative in the event of an emergency. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. Be sure each person knows the phone number or e-mail address and any necessary means of getting a hold of the emergency contact. You may have trouble getting through or communication systems may be down. Regardless, be patient.
Decide to stay or go. Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the event, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the internet often for information or official instructions as it becomes available. If you’re specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.
Create a Plan to Shelter-in-Place. Whether you are at home, work, or elsewhere, there may be a situation when it’s simply best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside. In fact, there are some circumstances where staying put and creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as sheltering in place and sealing the room, is a matter of survival. Plan in advance where you will take shelter in this kind of an emergency. Choose an interior room or one with as few windows and doors as possible. Consider precutting plastic sheeting to seal windows doors and air vents. Each piece should be several inches larger than the space you want to cover so that it lies flat against the wall. Label each piece with the location of where it fits.
Use available information to assess the situation. If you see large amounts of debris in the air or local authorities say the air is badly contaminated, you may want to shelter-in-place and seal the room. Quickly bring your family and pets inside, lock doors, and close windows, air vents, and fire place dampers. Turn off air conditioning, forced air heating systems, exhaust fans, and clothes dryers. Take your emergency supplies and go into the room you have designated. Seal windows, doors, and vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape or anything else you have on hand. Listen to the TV, radio, or check the internet for instructions.
Create a Plan to Get Away. There may be conditions under which you will decide to get away, or there may be situation when you are ordered to leave. Plan in advance how you will assemble your family and anticipate where you will go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency. IF you have a car, keep at least a half tank of gas in it at all times. Become familiar with alternate routes as well as other means of transportation out of your area. If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Take your emergency supply kit, unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated, and lock the door behind you. Take pets with you if you are told to evacuate; however, if you are going to a public shelter, keep in mind that they may not be allowed inside. If you believe the air may be contaminated, drive with your windows and vents closed and keep the air conditioning and heater turned off.
Know Emergency Plans at School and Work. Think about all the places where your family spends time: School/daycare, work, and other places your family frequents. Talk to your children’s school and your employer about emergency plans. Find out how they will communicate with families during an emergency. If you are an employer, be sure you have an emergency preparedness plan. Review and practice it with your employees. A community working together during an emergency also makes sense. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together. Sharing plans and communicating in advance is a good strategy.
3. Be Informed About What Might Happen.
A hazard analysis was completed for Saline County in 2010 to identify the greatest risks that can affect our county. Using historical data, population, critical infrastructure, and other factors, it was determined that the top five hazards that we face are:
- Utility/Infrastructure Failure
- Hazardous Materials
By knowing the hazards that we face in our community, you can be better prepared to react. While there is no way to predict what will happen or what your personal circumstances will be, there are simple things you can do now to prepare yourself and your loved ones.
For more information on individual or family preparedness visit www.ready.gov or contact Saline County Emergency Management at 785-826-6511