After a disaster we can usually count on local officials and relief workers to be on the scene, but they can’t be everywhere at once and, depending on the type and scope of disaster, it could take days before help arrives. In most areas we’re used to the efficiency of 911 assistance, but remember, telephones are often knocked out by disasters, along with roads, water systems and electricity.
In a large disaster you likely will be responsible for your family’s safety and well-being for an extended period of time.
In addition to your Disaster Supplies Kit (discussed in my 8-30-09 blog) prepared and stored in convenient places, other important steps should be considered:
Utility turn off Teach every responsible family member how to turn off water, electricity, and gas. If you smell gas after an earthquake, shut off the main gas valve. Keep a wrench attached to the gas meter with a wire. Do not light a match; use a flashlight if electrical power is out.
Plan how your family will stay in contact Consider three possibilities:
– Agree on a location a safe distance from your home in case of fire
– In the event you can’t return home, agree on a location outside your neighborhood
– Make arrangements with an out-of-state relative or friend where family members can call to "check in." Many times local lines are out of order or jammed, but you can still make long-distance calls.
Discuss what to do during an earthquake Discuss and practice with the whole family earthquake and other emergency procedures. If indoors during an earthquake, duck under a sturdy table or desk. "Drop, Cover and Hold" is the slogan to remember for indoor safety. Cover your face and head to prevent injury from glass and debris. If a table is unavailable, move to a major wall or doorway, away from windows or objects that could fall.
If outdoors, move to an open area, away from falling objects and utility lines. If you’re near a body of water, move to high ground. If in transit, stop your vehicle away from buildings, bridges and utility lines and stay inside the vehicle until the shaking stops.
Ensure that your home is structurally safe Make sure your home complies with local regulations. Strap upright hot water heaters to the wall, bolt bookshelves to the wall. Go through your home, room by room, with an eye toward safety.
Learn First Aid and CPR There’s no question–First Aid and CPR training saves lives. Contact your local American Red Cross to sign up for these classes.
Remember, it is not difficult or expensive to be prepared, but it is up to you. If a real emergency should strike, your family’s safety and well-being will depend on how adequately you have prepared for them. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the task to be done–just take it one step at a time.
It’s impossible to plan for every potentiality, but your contingency plans will eliminate much of the confusion and inconvenience resulting from a catastrophe. What could be better than the peace of mind this preparedness will give you?