With the increasing intensity of storm systems in the United States due to changes caused by global warming, every family should have a plan in place ahead of time; before tragedy strikes.
Depending on where you live, you may be faced with one or a variety of catastrophes that can lead you to move quickly to take shelter or be evacuated from your home with little or no warning. Are you prepared?
A weather radio can be bought for around $20 at any local electronics store. The next time storms hit in the night the alarm will wake you in time to move your family to safety.
Going below ground is always best. If you have no other choice, stay in the innermost part of your home, away from windows. A closet or bathroom is best. Cover yourself with pillows, mattresses or blankets. Children can put on their bicycle gear to protect themselves. Many people are killed in tornadoes because of debris that is swirling around. Never stay in a mobile home.
If you are driving, don’t stay under an overpass. The wind tunnel effect will intensify the damage from the storm. It is best to leave your vehicle and lie flat in a ditch or ravine.
2. Floods and Hurricanes
Floods can be caused by a number of things such as the melting of snow, heavy and continuous rain storms, flowing mud or spring thawing.
Flooding can also be caused by a hurricane when it reaches land. Listen to the weather reports and if your area is advised to evacuate, take it seriously and leave. Many of the people and animals who die every year could have lived if they hadn’t tried to “ride it out”.
Board up your windows, take everything that you will need for an extended stay and leave early before the traffic begins to back up. It’s preferable to stay away from the highways because they may be too crowded, so bring a map along and a full tank of gas.
Once water is covering the roadway, you shouldn’t cross it. Flooding can happen very quickly, so don’t hesitate in evacuating.
Before an earthquake strikes, anchor tall furniture to the walls to prevent it falling over and injuring someone. This also applies to heavy pictures or mirrors. Never affix heavy objects over places where you sit or sleep.
When the earthquake hits, don’t stand under a doorway. You can be injured by the door opening and closing from the vibrations or if you are in a public place, you could be trampled by people who are panicking and trying to get out of the building.
If you are caught outside, move quickly away from electric lines, and poles. If you are driving, do not stay on an overpass and don’t drive through an underpass.
When the earthquake is over, check to see if the building that you are in is structurally sound and if not, leave immediately. If you smell gas, then you should shut it off.
If you don’t already have a generator, buy one. Don’t forget to have enough fuel available to last the duration and don’t store it touching the house.
During the storm, stay inside. Make sure that you have brought your pets in as well. The combination of cold temperatures and blowing winds, can harm or kill them and you. It only takes minutes to succumb to the effects of hypothermia. If the power goes out, you can stay in one centralized area and shut off the rest of the house to conserve warmth. Never use a stove or a charcoal grill to warm your home. Carbon monoxide is very dangerous and can kill you.
If you are caught outside in a car, remember that running the engine while the exhaust pipe is covered with snow will block the exhaust and direct it back into the vehicle. If you have extra clothing, put it on. The layers will help to keep you warmer. Try to keep the blood flowing by moving. Attach anything bright colored to the antenna of the car so that it can be seen by rescue workers.
If you are on foot and away from shelter, build a snow cave or find tree branches and other refuse that can be fashioned together to make a shelter. If possible, make a fire. Keep your clothes as dry as possible.
Drinking water won’t be a problem because the snow can be melted and then drunk (don’t eat the snow), but food would be harder, if not impossible to come by, so in cold weather, keep a supply of energy bars and other snacks in your vehicle.
Your home should be build with non-combustible materials. This includes not only the roof, but the siding, deck and any trim. It may be a bit more expensive, but when a fire is raging, it’s a good investment.
Keep your grass mowed short and remove debris near to your home or outbuildings. This includes branches that hang over the home and shrubs. Store propane, flammable materials and firewood away from the house. Professionals advise that there should be a safe zone of 30 – 100 feet around the home and outbuildings.
Make sure that there is a fire exit for every room of your home and a working smoke detector. If you have a second floor, there needs to be a plan for how family members can get out a window and down safely. Teach everyone in the home how to use the fire extinguisher and practice fire drills.
If a wildfire is in your area, you will need to move quickly and there’s a lot to keep up with. You will need to know where the evacuation areas are by listening to the television, calling the police, or contacting your local Red Cross. If you are going to stay with friends and relatives, make certain that every family member knows where to go in case you are separated.
Have an emergency kit prepared that will last for about a week. This should include:
Water (1-3 gallons per person per day)
Tools for turning off utilities
Food that doesn’t have to be cooked or refrigerated
Medications and vitamins
Food and carriers for your pets
First Aid kit
Flashlights and batteries
Cash (in case power causes the ATMs to stop working)
A flash drive and a charged phone
In all of these situations, plan ahead. Check your homeowners or renter’s policy and make sure that you are covered for the type of disaster that is common to your area. Scan all important papers such as insurance, marriage licenses, legal papers, transcripts, etc onto a flash drive to take with you should you have to leave your home. It’s also a good idea to scan family photographs and upload them.
Never leave your pets with the intention of coming back to get them and don’t wait until the last minute to pack up your things. Once an evacuation is ordered, you may be forced leave with no warning.
You can save the life of a family member or your own by following these simple precautions.