Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Disaster Response - Individual Preparedness

School has started, fall is here and winter is just around the corner. Now is a great time to take a look at your families disaster/emergency preparedness. While a natural or man-made disaster can strike at any time, winter storms happen every year, but continue to catch many of us off guard and unprepared. If our households and families have supplies and a plan in place, it doesn't matter how an emergency situation happens - you will be prepared.

This is a big list. If you haven't already started, it may seem daunting at first. But it's important and it's for you and your families' safety, so make the commitment to start checking items off the list. If you tackle a couple of these each week you can be sure that your family is prepared before the first snowflake falls.

1. Do you believe the community you live in is relatively well prepared for a disaster?
Not the government emergency agencies or responders people tend to rely on but: Neighbors / People you work with

2. Do you believe the members of your household are relatively well prepared for a disaster?

3. Have you discussed disaster preparedness with members of your household?
All possibilities: fire, flood, volcano, winter storms, power outage, security, etc….

4. Do you have a 72 hour disaster supplies kit?
Food, water, clothing, important documents and other things you would need if an evacuation order was issued. Consider adding other items that may provide comfort (small toy or soft cloth) or even entertainment (travel game or deck of cards). With only seconds available to take with you – is all of this located in a single place in your house? Government Officials provide building inspections & may sign the building “UNSAFE - DO NOT ENTER.” You may never be able to re-enter your home if deemed unsafe by government officials and enforced by government officials.

5. Do you have at least the minimum disaster supplies on hand to sustain each member of your household for 72 hours?
One gallon of water per person per day, battery operated radio and flashlights, extra batteries, first aid kit.

6. Do you have a 72 hour disaster kit for each car?
Will the kit support all individuals who normally ride in the vehicle? Food, water, clothing, etc. for 3 days?

7. Are all members of your household current in first aid and CPR?
Current within the last 12 months?

8. Do you have operational smoke detectors on every level of your residence, in particular outside bedrooms and have they been tested and cleaned within the last six months?
Ports on smoke detectors collect household dust and render them inoperable - 33% of smoke detectors across America do not work right now.

9. Do you have a charged ABC type Fire Extinguisher in the home and has every member of your household been trained to use it?
Call 9-1-1. Decision – Will the extinguisher make a difference? Approach & PASS - Pull pin, Aim nozzle at base of flames, Squeeze the handle, Sweep side to side.

10. Does everyone in your household, old enough to do so, know how to safely turn off all utilities?
Gas, Water, Electricity

11. Have you safeguarded your most important records from fire and water?
Is it water proof? Consider a bank safety deposit box.

12. Have the members of your household discussed where to meet outside the home in the following situations?
If there is a fire? If you cannot return home following a wide scale disaster, have reasonable locations for both inside and outside the community been identified?

13. Have members of your household practiced a fire drill within the past year?
Upstairs bedroom window, escape ladder, gathering point, notification method

14. Do you have an out of area phone contact?
Present day phone systems actually make long distance more reliable. Contact should be at least between west and east sides of the Cascade mountain range and preferably in another state. Agreement in advance to contact another person out of state to check in– this may take several calls however - is a great method to communicate with loved ones.

Pay telephone systems have numerous contact points and backup systems making landlines more survivable and reliable than cell phones or even home phones during emergencies.

15. Do you have a local disaster buddy?
Preplan a neighbor or relative that you can make an agreement with. Figure out in advance what actions will be taken for: children, elderly persons, pets, etc.

During an emergency, people are often quick to respond to needs of their neighbors … Preplanning and agreements make this response organized and anticipated.

16. For those of you with school age children or grandchildren, do you know if their school or child care center has a disaster plan, and do you know what the plan says?
It is a dangerous assumption to believe there is a plan in place. Review the school handbook or call the school administrator and ask if there an emergency or disaster response plan in place? Will the teachers stay beyond contract hours if you can’t get there for 2 or 3 days? Will bus drivers just drop off children at normal stops, or is there a method in place to assure children will be protected?

17. Is there a good reason why you should not take action on the first sixteen questions?

18. Would you like to see a neighborhood disaster preparedness program started in your neighborhood?
Many communities have programs in place. If not, telephone local Emergency Managers to encourage, expect, require that community preparedness programs are established.

How are you preparing? Are there considerations that should be added to this list? Share your thoughts and comments.

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