Home Security: Disaster Prep
Author: Lowell Bradford
Disaster can strike at any moment, regardless of the time, day or season. It can come in the form of a fire, severe weather conditions, or flooding. Because no one is immune to the consequences of a disaster, it is important for people to prepare for the possibility of it in advance. Although there may be advanced warning with some disasters, others such as earthquakes or floods, often take people by surprise. This can leave them without food, electricity, and basic necessities. By preparing an emergency plan and kit, families will be better able to take care of their needs and stay safe during a time that is both stressful and dangerous.
Preparing the House
Because disasters are unpredictable, people must regularly ensure that their homes are well maintained. This will increase its chances of coming through a disaster intact and may even prevent certain disasters from occurring. People should check for any items that are in need of repair or reinforcement. This includes checking electrical wiring for defects and gas connections for leaks. Homeowners should verify that the house is bolted to the foundation and that gas appliances are strapped to either the floor or the walls. In addition, reinforcing the attic with plywood will help prevent heavy objects from falling if there is an earthquake or other disaster.
It is also important for people to familiarize themselves with their homes. This includes knowing where to shut off the power, gas and water. Touring the house with an eye for potential dangers is also a wise precautionary measure. In each room, people should look for items that could fall and hurt the occupants. This may be a heavy mirror over a sofa, a large bookcase in a child's room, or glass objects on tall shelves. These items should be secured or moved to a safer location. In cabinets that house cleaning chemicals, separately store any chemicals that are toxic if mixed, such as bleach and ammonia. Outlets in hallways and near exits should have emergency lighting plugged in. These lights turn on if there is a power failure and can light the way during emergencies. If there are no smoke detectors in the house or carbon monoxide detectors, they should be installed on every level.
Preparing Family Members
The entire goal of an emergency preparedness plan is to ensure the safety and well-being of one's family. To do that the entire family must be aware of the plan's details, and they must be able to execute it in an emergency. Home escape plans, like those for a fire, should be reviewed by each member of the family. Having the family participate in a mock emergency will verify that everyone is familiar with the correct escape routes. In the plan, include a designated location that family members can meet if they must escape the home.
Families with children should choose a trustworthy neighbor that their kids can turn to if they are unable to find their parents or become confused. Children should also know what 911 is and how and when to dial it. Memorizing the telephone number of a relative living out-of-state is also an important part of the plan. This person should be a contact person for the family to ensure that everyone is accounted for. Taking and carrying recent pictures of family members is also a critical part of being prepared for an emergency. If a family member is lost, these pictures can be shown around to assist in finding them.
Don't Forget the Neighborhood
Neighbors and the surrounding neighborhood play an essential part when it comes to disaster preparedness. Although the goal is to be self-sufficient, there are times when it may be necessary to turn to neighbors for help or vice-versa. Neighbors should share special skills with one another, such as medical skills, so that they can help each other if necessary during an emergency situation. Learning to shut off the neighbor's utilities is also important in the event that a neighbor is not home when disaster strikes. This can avoid a gas leak or other dangerous situation from occurring. People who are new or unfamiliar with the streets should also learn the best street routes to the hospital and the location of the police department.
Food, Water, and Medical Supplies
During an emergency, stores, pharmacies, and other locations where people buy goods may be closed or inaccessible. To avoid running out of food, water, or medical supplies it is important to stock up and create an emergency supply. In those supplies, people should keep a stocked first aid kit that contains aspirin. If on prescription medication, people should ask their physicians for an additional written prescription that can be used in the event of an emergency.
Water is a primary necessity for the body. The Center for Disease Control recommends that people keep one gallon of water per person, per day on hand. It also recommends storing no less than three days’ worth of water for each family member. People with pets must also store enough water to care for their needs. The water can be store-bought and kept sealed while in storage. If using a container for storage, use one that is food-grade and meant for water. Before filling containers, clean and sanitize them. To ensure the freshness and safety of the stored water, it should be changed every six months and kept in a cool area with low lighting.
In addition to storing water, a person will want to have enough food on hand. Food kept in storage for emergency purposes should be non-perishable, such as canned goods or food that has been dehydrated or freeze-dried. The date of purchase should be marked on the package using a water-proof permanent marker. This will help people keep track of what foods to rotate or get rid of. Storage of food must be in an area that is moisture-free. This will prevent rust from forming on cans and moisture getting into non-canned packaging. Ideally food should be stored where there is no exposure to the sun, like the garage, with a secondary storage location outside of the home. This way, if the home is destroyed, a person will still have a supply of food. It can be kept on shelving, in suitcases, or in food grade buckets. In addition, it is important to store items such as matches, can openers, pots and pans, silverware, Styrofoam cups, and aluminum foil.
In emergencies it is important to keep in touch with the outside world. Keeping a battery-powered AM/FM radio and spare batteries is one way to accomplish this. A weather radio may also be useful in areas that frequently experience tornadoes or hurricanes. In the event that phones are not available, stamps, paper, and pen can help people keep in touch. These items should be kept in waterproof bags and stored in dry areas.
To care for their basic sanitation needs, people will want to store extra toilet tissue rolls and even a portable chemical toilet. Liquid soap, toothpaste and brushes, pre-moistened towelettes, disposable razors, and items for feminine hygiene are all items that will be invaluable during an emergency. Additionally, at least a gallon of disinfectant should also be stored for cleaning. Keep garbage bags for use as toilet liners, trash collection, or extra storage.
Store additional shelter, such as a two, or more person tent to use in the event that the home is not safe. Include blankets, sleeping bags, and body warming pads. For heat, a 20 pound, cylinder mounted propane heater is suitable. In emergencies, having the right tools can be critical for safety. A type ABC, large fire extinguisher, plastic tarp, 100 feet of nylon rope, a crow bar, duct tape and a multi-purpose tool are just some of the items that are likely come in handy following a disaster. The multi-purpose tool should be kept in an easily accessible location so that it can be used to turn off the gas and water as quickly as possible. To power items such as a refrigerator, a person should buy a portable power generator. A suitable generator is 120 vac with a 5 HP motor.
A spare pair of clothing, including boots and an emergency poncho, should also be kept with emergency storage items. If there is a baby in the family, a supply of disposable diapers, wet wipes, baby bottles, and formula must be kept in emergency storage. Babies will also need additional blankets and at least three changes of clothes, including knit caps. Additional items that may be needed during an emergency situation include copies of personal identification, no less than $50 in cash and duplicate credit cards. A spare set of car keys and some form of entertainment, such as books or playing cards, should also be kept in storage for emergencies.