Remember in September: Preparing for Disaster A Clear Path’s Top Ten Tips

September is Emergency Preparedness month. In an ideal world we’d like it very much if we didn’t have to think about what may befall us or our family. But we live in a world where disaster can strike at any moment. And while many of my clients want to hold on to their stuff “just in case” (when chances of the “just in case scenario” is not likely to occur) it’s a good idea to keep and store a few things just in case the earth shakes or a fire is burning out of control.

1. Tools: You may want to have some or all of these tools stored in a bin for easy access:

  • Fire extinguisher large 5-20 pound, type ABC
  • Crow bar, 1 ft min.
  • Leather gloves
  • Multi-function pocket tool or knife
  • Plastic tarp, 9×12 ft min
  • Nylon rope, 100 foot
  • Duct tape
  • A multi-purpose tool for shutting of gas and water main valves
  • Portable generator.   Make your selection based on what really needs to be powered and the run time of the model. Our recommendation is for a maximum size of 5 HP, 2250 Watt 120 vac only. To get a 230 vac generator will require an 8 HP motor, and your run time will drop in half. Typically, the only items in your house that will require 230 vac is an electric heating system, an electric water heater, or an electric range. What you really need to power is a refrigerator, a few lights, and a radio.
  • Power converter for running 120 volt items from car battery.

2. Light: I lived in the San Fernando Valley when the ’94 earthquake hit Los Angeles at approximately 4:00AM and very dark inside and out. Disaster or not, you want to always have access to light.

  • Flashlight with 2 sets of spare alkaline batteries and one spare bulb.  Newer LED flashlights are also available and run much longer on a set of batteries. Store the flashlight by turning one battery in the wrong direction to avoid the inevitable corrosion.
  • Lantern battery, kerosene or propane powered. Store fuel or batteries, but never use fuel-based lighting until you are sure gas leaks are eliminated.
  • Long life candles
  • Waterproof matches or lighter

3. Communication: Chances are pretty good that cell towers will become inoperable for a time. Get ready with other methods of communication.

  • AM/FM radio.  Store at least 3 sets of alkaline batteries for standard units. Inexpensive radios are available from your local Radio Shack.  The best radio is one that has rechargeable NI-cads built in, and may be charged with the built-in solar cell, or by cranking on a built in generator handle.
  • This solar/generator survival radio is available from Epicenter.  We recommend this radio for your supplies in your car as well.
  • Pen, pencil, and paper pad.  Store in zip lock bag.
  • Stamped postcards.  Store in zip lock bags.  Your house might be gone, but if you still have a mailbox, the mail will continue service.  An easy way to stay in touch with family far away.
  • List of important phone numbers, including your out of state focal
  • Weather radio or police scanner.  A bit expensive, but a weather radio is a must in tornado or hurricane country.

4. Your home. Find out where the utility shutoffs are for water, power, and gas. Place a flashlight or an emergency light next to your breaker panel. Place a wrench in your water meter box located near the street and attach a tool on your gas meter for turning off the gas. Evaluate each room in your house. Ask yourself: what will fall on my head, or will keep me from getting out if it fell?  Secure anything you find.  Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit. Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches. Also be sure to store household chemicals on a bottom shelf of a closed cabinet. Never store bleach and ammonia in the same cabinet.  These chemicals, when mixed, will create a deadly toxic gas. Change the batteries 2x/year in the carbon monoxide and fire alarms throughout your home.

5. Store at home:

  • Water: 30 gallons per person (2 gallons per person per day for 1 week).
  • Canned goods: ready to eat soups, meats, veggies and fruit. Make sure you know when they will expire.
  • Cooking: Barbecue, 40 pounds charcoal, and two cans of starter fluid.  Or a propane unit with two 20 pound containers of propane.  A propane camp stove may also be used.

Store the following items for use with above:

  • Pot and pan for cooking
  • Kitchen knife
  • Silverware.
  • Styrofoam cups
  • Water proof matches or lighter
  • Zip lock bags
  • Can Opener
  • Aluminum foil

6. Keep your car safe. Think of your car’s trunk as a big steel supply cabinet.  Keep your supplies in the trunk along with other items like tools, jumper cables and spare tire. Even if you are at home when a disaster strikes, and your home is well stocked, you may still need the supplies in your car. Your house may not be safe to enter, or may catch fire after a disaster like an earthquake.

Your car will be one of your most important resources after a disaster strikes.  Keep it mechanically sound, and pay close attention to the exhaust system.  A leaking exhaust system could kill. Replace your battery every 2-3 years.  In an emergency, your car battery will need to run the radio and heater for extended periods.

7. Prepare for disaster on the job: Read your company’s evacuation plan. Note the designated meeting locations for after an evacuation. Each time you enter a room, take note of the exit routes and locations of fire extinguisher and medical kits. Keep your own personal supplies in your desk in a single pack of some kind that you can access quickly.  Along with your supplies, store a pair of walking shoes.

Be sure you have composed a card to carry in your wallet or purse with important phone numbers including the number of your out of state phone contact. Keep the area under your desk free of waste-paper baskets and the like. This 6 square foot area might be home during a few traumatic moments.

If you are not at your desk when something happens, don’t count on being able to make it back.

8. Emergency supplies at work:

  • Emergency water rations
  • MRE’s (Meals ready to eat, or coast guard food rations)
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Flashlight with extra batteries of chemical light stick
  • First aid kit

9. Know and understand your neighborhood. Contact your school district to obtain policy regarding how children will be released from school. Know the location of the nearest police and fire stations, as well as the route to the nearest hospital emergency room. Meet with neighbors and find out who has medical experience. If you are taking this preparedness thing seriously, share this information with the households next to you. The more people you can convince to prepare, the greater your group resources. Remember that you will be called upon by all around you for help, especially by those who didn’t take warnings seriously. Show neighbors where the utility shutoffs are and provide them with a list of contact phone numbers. Ask how to turn off your neighbor’s utilities.

10. Come up with a plan in case of an emergency. Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. Here is a great chart to help you and your family come up with a plan in case of an emergency.

 

Thanks to Ready.gov make-a-plan for great emergency response ideas.