Emergency!

Emergency, as defined by one source, is described as a sudden combination of distressing circumstances that require immediate action.

Numerous types of  emergencies occur everyday around the world.  Emergencies ranging from wide scale natural disasters affecting thousands of people to emergencies on a smaller scale involving just one individual.

Establish A Plan For Emergency

When putting together an emergency plan and supply kit it’s common to plan solely for the one natural disaster that is most likely to occur in your particular area, such as an earthquake, tornado, or flooding.  A well-prepared emergency plan will include preparedness for other emergency situations as well, such as a house fire, a serious injury or a heart attack occurring at home, an extended power outage, or even an emergency on the road like a car accident requiring medical supplies or a blanket until paramedics are able to arrive at the scene.

Emergency Preparedness For Different Types Of Emergency

Emergency preparedness includes a broad scope of preparation that should provide a separate plan of action for each different type of emergency that may be encountered.  For example, an escape plan for a house fire will call for family members to get out of the burning house via the nearest exit and going straight to the previously designated meeting area such as the front yard or a neighbor’s yard.  In contrast, in the event of a wildfire, the action plan will be a much different scenario as residents prepare for the evacuation of family members and pets, gathering essential items, determining where they will go, and notifying their out of area contact person with a status update.

What is Emergency Preparedness…

Emergency preparedness means different things to different people.  In the following video recorded at a Mesa, Arizona Emergency Management Event, you’ll hear people sharing their opinions on emergency preparedness.  One woman describes her family’s experience of evacuating with 10 minutes notice in a San Diego wildfire.  She shares insights on what they should have done instead and how her family could have been better prepared.

 

Emergency Preparedness Tips

The following video provides emergency preparedness tips on how to be prepared for an emergency situation where you are unable to leave your home for a period of time due severe weather, power outage, or other natural or man-made disaster.

Start with thinking about what you would want to have on had if you were to find yourself stranded at home.  When you plan what items you will keep stocked in your pantry for an emergency situation, keep in mind that you will want to have enough food and water for each family member and pet for at least 3 days.

Look for non-perishable items like canned soup and dried food items.  Purchase items that don’t need to be refrigerated or that require cooking. Another tip that’s easy to overlook is to have a manual can opener as well in case there is a power outage.

If you are also experiencing a power outage, be sure the first food items you use are from the refrigerator for as long as they remain cold and fresh.  Then next move to any usable food items from the freezer. After you have depleted the food supply from the refrigerator and freezer, begin to use your emergency pantry items.

Water tips:  Store at least one gallon of water, per person, per day so you’ll have enough for hydration food preparation, and hygiene.  Either purchase bottled water or store tap water in sanitized plastic containers.  Keep the water in a cool dark place and replace it every 6 months.  If you need more water during an emergency, you can treat unsafe tap water by either boiling it for 2 minutes or by adding 16 drops of regular, unscented bleach to one gallon of water.

 

List of Natural Disasters & Emergencies Faced Daily Around The World

It is impossible to list every possible emergency that may occur; however, it is important to consider which emergency situations could likely affect you and your loved ones at home and school, or at the workplace, or even when you are traveling.  Thinking these things through in advance and having a plan of action can often make the difference between life and death.

House or Structure Fires:
A fire emergency comes without warning and swift action must be taken to escape before smoke or flames become deadly.  It is important to go on the offensive taking precautionary steps to correct faulty wiring, replace heater filters, check natural gas connections, and so on in order to prevent typical causes of house fires.

In addition to these fire prevention steps it is essential to also have an escape plan, a first aid kit, and also for you and your family to get basic first aid training and also learn how to treat burns resulting from a fire emergency.

Wildfires:
Red flag warnings are issued when weather conditions are prime for potential wildfires.  If you live in a wild fire prone area you will want to be ready with an Emergency Fire Evacuation Plan in place and to be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.  When an evacuation order has been issued you may have less than 10 minutes to leave your home.

Mudslides & Burn Areas:
Mudslide conditions can often be expected during or after heavy rains in targeted areas such as burn areas or hillside properties.  When an actual mudslide occurs, it can happen with no warning whatsoever, and a mudslide can even take place after heavy rains have subsided.

An emergency plan for mudslides should include precautionary steps such as planting new vegetation in hillside burn areas and using sandbags.  Evacuations are not unusual in burn areas during periods of heavy rain; therefore, be smart and be ready with a plan to be able to quickly gather important papers, photos, and medicines, so you, your family, and pets are able to evacuate quickly and safely.

Earthquakes:
A natural disaster that strikes without warning — an earthquake.  An emergency plan for an earthquake should address two different scenarios: 1) If you are near the epicenter and have experienced major damage, you will need to determine if it’s safe to stay in the area; if it’s possible to get to another location; is your home structurally sound; etc. 2) If you are located away from the epicenter and do not have major damage but may be experiencing power outage and/or interruption of other utilities such as water and gas you will need to rely on your emergency supply kit.

Earthquake kits are critical and need to include food, water, and first aid supplies, as well as a long list of items like flashlights, radios, etc.

Tsunami:
A tsunami can be triggered by a major quake, although not always.   Tsunami warnings are not able to be issued quickly enough for those near the epicenter of a quake. If you are located in a coastal area and experience a major earthquake, consider that as your warning of a possible tsunami and head to higher ground as a precaution.

Tsunami warnings are issued to possible outlying areas that may be affected.  Locations that are great distances away from the quake zone have plenty of time to prepare. Tsunami warnings often end up as a false alarm in many of these areas, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Another tip is when you are at a beach location, get in the habit looking for tsunami hazard warning signs along the roads and paths that designate you are in a tsunami zone.

Creative Commons License photo credit: JossSmithson

Flood:
Flooding can occur without notice.  Floods can occur as a result of nature or as a result of a broken water main or a broken pipe in your home.  If, fore example, you live in an area near a river and there has been extensive, heavy rains, the National Weather Service, is often able to issue flood warnings, sometimes well in advance, so there is some time to prepare as well as you can.

Flash flood warnings are issued when conditions exist which indicate the possibility of a flash flood occurring.  When these warnings are given take heed and stay away from the areas where such flash floods can arise in just moments.

Tornadoes:
If conditions exist for possible tornadoes, stay tuned to news stations to remain updated in case a tornado is spotted in your vicinity.  Be ready to follow the action plan you have in place and get to the safest place in your home, school, or office.

Make sure you know what to do if you are away from home when a tornado occurs.  Know what to do if you’re driving, or in a store, etc.

Hurricanes:
The warning system for approaching hurricanes is one of the few natural disasters where there is adequate time to take action and prepare before the hurricane arrives.

While the effects may still be catastrophic, at least people are able to prepare their homes as best they can by boarding up windows, placing sandbags, etc.  Of course, most importantly the warning system allows people to safely evacuate the area before it becomes too dangerous to stay.

Volcanic Eruptions:
Volcanic activity is often preceded by a warning system allowing time to take safety precautions.  If you live near an active volcano, be informed on specific steps to properly prepare for issues related to this particular natural disaster.  For example, volcanic ash is often the biggest hazard of volcanic activity, so it is wise to have a supply of breathing masks on hand.

Volcanic ash can also cause damage to paint on cars, plant life, and can cause major interruptions in air travel.  Do your homework and take the appropriate action.

Extreme Weather:
Emergency preparedness is part of the way of life for those living in parts of the world that experience blizzards, ice storms, and extremely harsh frigid weather.  On the flip side of the coin are extreme heat waves which bring dangerous conditions as well.

The key is to be prepared in advance.  Have a plan for the possibility of being without power or climate control in your home.  Is a generator an option for your circumstances?  Make sure you have an alternate source for heat in freezing weather, or that you have house fans in drought conditions in case air conditioning units are not working. Food and water supplies must be well stocked in the event roads and bridges are impassable due to severe weather.

 

During a heavy ice storm, in the video below, a power company employee describes how ice and wind cause power outages by creating a condition called galloping lines.

 

Power Outages / Rolling Blackouts:
Power outages caused by rolling blackouts, natural disasters, or other emergency situations, can be dealt with fairly easily by making sure you have an emergency kit on hand that includes, among other things, battery operated flashlights, lanterns, radio, solar powered chargers, etc.

Pool or Water Accidents / Drownings:
As part of an emergency preparedness plan, if you have a pool or pond, be sure to follow standard safety precautions for water safety, like fences around pool area, an alarm that sounds if a child or pet falls in the pool.  Also be sure you have proper first aid training to resuscitate a drowning victim.

Emergencies When In The Car:
No matter how prepared and equipped you are at home, work, and school, you’re not done yet if you haven’t equipped your care with emergency items.  Probably the most likely emergency while in your vehicle will be a car accident.  It is important to always have a first aid kit, a blanket, a fire extinguisher, a car escape tool to break a car window or cut a jammed seatbelt, etc.

It’s also important to keep some non-perishable food/snacks and some water bottles in your car in the event of a natural disaster, like an earthquake, or other emergency that may cause you to be stranded in your car for a period of time.

Hotel Emergencies:
There are many variables in making and emergency preparedness plan for when you are traveling and staying in a hotel. Are you staying within the United States? Is the hotel structurally sound after the disaster?  The best advice is to check for instructions with the concierge desk finding out what the hotel’s emergency plan is and what emergency supplies are available and so on.  If you are out of the country, if possible contact the U.S. Embassy to notify them of your location and condition.

Poisoning:
When you least expect it a child may ingest a poisonous substance such as a prescription medication or cleaning solution; perhaps an adult accidentally mixes household cleaners and is overcome by the fumes.  A call to the Poison Control Center needs to be made immediately and you’ll want to have that number available the moment you need it.

Nuclear Accidents:
Nuclear power plants are regulated and monitored very closely, yet there is always a chance of a nuclear accident resulting in dangerous levels of radiation.  If you live within a specific radius of a nuclear power plant that is considered to be within a potential danger zone, you will be given brochures that include instructions on what needs to be done if the event of a nuclear accident.

 

Evacuation Order

If an evacuation order is issued, get out as quickly as you can.  The longer you wait, the more “at risk” you place yourself, your loved ones, and your pets.  Keep in mind that the longer you wait to head out, the more crowded the roads will be and you may become caught in a gridlock of traffic.

Know where you are headed and have an out of town contact that you can give updates to, so other family members can know where you are and that you’re okay.

It’s a good idea to make it a habit of maintaining at least a half tank of gas in your car, although that always sounds easier than it really is.  Therefore, at least at the time you become aware of a possible impending natural disaster, filling your car’s gas tank should be one of the first precautions you take.  Waiting until the last minute can result in the risk of long lines at filling stations, and even the possibility of the station running out of fuel.  Additionally, if conditions intensify and the power goes out, then gas pumps may not be working.

 

Remember To Plan For Recovery After A Disaster

Make sure you have included in your emergency preparedness kit, paperwork and contact information for your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies, car insurance policies, bank account numbers, and so on.  If your home is uninhabitable you will not have access to policy numbers and phone numbers.  Also be sure to have copies of medical records and current prescriptions, as well as access to phone numbers for doctors, your pharmacy, and veterinarian.

Something else to keep in mind when planning how to deal with natural disasters is to realize that sometimes one disaster triggers another.  For example a major quake can trigger fires, gas explosions, and can even be followed by a tsunami.

When major destruction has occurred and when there is no power or water supply available, disease can begin to spread.  Professional medical care may not be available for a number of days so it is wise to include antibiotics in your first aid kit.

Natural disasters such as floods, displace wildlife. Precaution needs to be taken to watch for snakes or other dangerous animals. If you live in an area where poisonous snakes are located, it’s a good idea to keep a book in your first aid kit to identify kinds of snakes and what to do for a snake bite.

Another unfortunate issue that can arise after disaster is looting and safety issues.  You will need to consider how you would deal with this problem, especially if you are located in a heavily populated area.  Sadly after devastating emergencies you hear reports of people who have stolen someone’s bike, food, or whatever other items desperate people feel they need.

On a positive note, catastrophic events tend to bring out far more stories of heroism than of vandalism. And faith in human nature is not lost as many people are ready to help others during crisis, even risking their own safety.