A storm could confine your family at home. An earthquake, flood, typhoon, or any disaster could cut off basic services – water, electricity, and telephone – for days.
After a disaster, local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it may take days. Would your family be prepared to cope with the emergency until help arrives?
Families can – and do – cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed in this article to create your family’s disaster plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.
Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere – at work, at school, or in the car.:
How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe?
FOUR STEPS TO SAFETY:
1. Find out what could happen to you. Contact your local emergency management or civil defense office. Be prepared to take down notes:
- Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen. Request information on how to prepare for each.
- Learn about your community’s warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
- Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons, if needed.
- Next, find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children’s school or day care center, and other places where your family spends time.
- Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.
- Pick two places to meet.
- Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire;
- Outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
- Ask a friend from another municipality (town, city, or province) to be your “family contact”. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact’s number.
- Discuss what to do in an evacuation.
- Complete a preparedness checklist.
- Have a disaster preparedness checklist.
- Post emergency telephone numbers beside phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.)
- Teach children how and when to call your local emergency medical services number for emergency help.
- Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches.
- Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
- Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it is kept.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
- Conduct a home hazard hunt.
- Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
- Take a first aid and CPR class.
- Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
- Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.
4. Practice and maintain your plan.
- Ask your kids every six months so they remember what to do.
- Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
- Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
- Test and recharge your fire extinguisher according to manufacturer’s instruction.
- test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. Assemble a disaster supplies kit with items you may need in an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle bags, or covered trash containers.
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that will not spoil.
- One change of clothing and footwear per person, and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- A first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications.
- Emergency tolls including a battery-powdered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
- An extra set of car keys and a credit card or traveller’s checks.
- Sanitation supplies.
- Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
- An extra pair of glasses.
- Keep important family documents in a waterproof containers. Keep a smaller kit in the trunk of your car.
Locate the main electric fuse box, and water service main. learn how and when to turn these utilities off. Teach all responsible family members. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
Remember, turn off the the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if your are instructed to do so.
NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS:
Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help arrives. If you are a member of a neighborhood organization, such as home association or crime watch group, introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbor’s special skills (e.g. medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents cannot get home.
HOME HAZARD HUNT:
During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. Anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire is a home hazard. For example, a hot water heater or a bookshelf can fall. Inspect your home at least once a year and fix potential hazards.
Contact your local fire department to leard about home fire harards.
Evacuate immediately if told to do so.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
- Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
- Take your family disaster supplies kit.
- Lock your home.
- Use travel routes specified by local authorities – do not use shortcuts because certain areas may be impossible or dangerous.
If you’re sure you have time,
- Shut off water, gas, and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so.
- Post a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
If disaster strikes,
- Remain calm and patient. Put your plans into action.
- Check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio for news and instructions.
- Evacuate, if advised to do so. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
Check for damage in your home…
- Use flashlights – do not light matches or turn on electrical switches if your suspect damage.
- Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards.
- Sniff for gas leaks. If you smell of gas or suspect a leak, turn off the gas valve, open the windows and get everyone outside quickly.
- Shut off any other damage utilities.
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, and other flammable liquids immediately.
- Confine or secure your pets.
- Call your family contact – do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
- Check on your neighbors especially elderly or disabled persons.
- Make sure you have an adequate water supply.
- Stay away from downed power lines.