Basic Emergency Preparedness helps you to develop, practice and maintain emergency plans that will guide you about what to do before, during and after a disaster to protect yourself and your family. Being prepared will reduce fear, anxiety and losses during a disaster. You can significantly reduce the impact of a disaster with some very basic planning. Knowing what to do in the event of a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, severe weather or other disaster can save lives.
Preparing to be self-sufficient for a minimum of three days is recommended. This may mean providing for your own shelter, first aid, food, water and sanitation. It may even become necessary to evacuate your home and planning ahead can make this much less stressful. Take some time to learn the preparedness strategies below, you'll be glad you did if you find yourself in the midst of a disaster.
Learn about the hazards that might strike your particular community. Familiarize yourself with the risks you face from these hazards and your community's plans for warning, action and possible evacuation. Consider the possible hazards, assess the risk level and determine how you can reduce that risk. This information is readily available from your local emergency management office or your local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Evacuations are more common than people realize. Hundreds of times a year people are forced to leave their homes for a variety of reasons including industrial accidents, fires, floods and severe weather. The amount of time you will have to evacuate depends on the hazard. You may have days or you may have just minutes to evacuate. If it looks like an evacuation may be possible keep a full tank of gas in your car. If you do not have transportation make arrangements with friends or the local government. Listen to a battery powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions. If ordered to evacuate do so immediately or within the required time frame. Determine if evacuation routes have been suggested, do not take shortcuts as they may be blocked. If time permits be sure to take your disaster supplies kit. Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provide some protection such as long pants, long sleeved shirts and hats. Be sure to secure your home by closing and locking all doors and windows and unplugging electrical equipment. Let others know where you are going before you leave.
Become familiar with your children's school emergency plan. Find out how the school plans to communicate to you when there is a crisis. Make sure the school store adequate food, water and other basic supplies. Also become familiar with your workplace evacuation plan.
MAKE A PLAN
Now that you are informed about the potential hazards you may find yourself in it is time to prepare your family by creating a family disaster plan. Begin by gathering as a family and reviewing the potential hazards and discussing what family members are to do if they are not at home when a warning is issued. Use the following guide to help you prepare a disaster plan:
Escape Routes - Draw a floor plan of your home and mark two escape routes for each room. Make sure children understand the drawings and post a copy of the drawings at eye level in each child's room. Have emergency escape ladders easily accessible for rooms above ground level and make sure everyone knows where they are and how to use them. Emergency escape drills are a great way to become familiar with the escapes routes and will ease fear in the event of a real emergency.
Communication - It is important to plan how you will communicate with your family members in the event of an emergency as you may not all be together. It is a good idea to complete a family contact card for each family member. These cards can be laminated for durability. Have children keep the cards in their backpacks, wallets or purses. Pick a family member or friend who lives out of state for family members to notify when they are safe. It is a good idea to keep a copy of the contact car in your disaster kit.
Utility Shut Off and Safety - In the event of an emergency it may become necessary for you to shut off your utilities. Natural gas leaks are responsible for a significant number of fires and explosions following disasters. All adult household members should learn how to shut off the natural gas. All homes are different so contact your local gas company for instructions on how to properly shut off your gas. It may also become necessary to shut the water off to your home. Typically there is a shut-off valve for water that enters your home. Learn how to shut the water valve off and teach all adult family members how to do so.
Special Needs & Elderly- If someone in your family is elderly or has special needs it is important to plan ahead; you may have to take additional steps to make sure those special needs are met. Special transportation may need to be arranged. If special medications or treatments are required you will need to make sure those are available in the event of an emergency. You can make arrangements with emergency services in your community or the local fire department for assistance if needed. Make a plan with neighbors or family friends to assist you with your special needs or elderly family members in the event of an emergency.
Caring for Animals - Household pets will also need cared for in the event of a disaster. Take the time to identify an appropriate shelter for your pets when a disaster strikes as you may not always be abler to take them with you. Have pet supplies ready to go including food, water, carrier and a leash. Call your local animal shelter or animal control office for advice and information. Research local hotels or motels that allow pets in case you need to check in. If you have large animals such as horses, cattle or pigs on your property be sure to prepare before a disaster. Make sure you have transportation available if it becomes necessary to evacuate the animals.
Safety Skills - All adults and even children can learn hot to administer first aid and CPR. Local American Red Cross chapters offer classes at all levels and can provide information about training. You should be sure to keep current fire extinguishers in your home. Adults should have an understanding of how to use the fire extinguisher and everyone should be aware of where they are located. Be sure to keep them accessible and check them regularly for viability.
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