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National Emergency Preparedness and Response

Preparing for a national emergency can save your life and make disaster recovery easier.Preparing for a major national emergency provides the best chance of survival.  Remember, this is just planning.  There is no reason to expect such an emergency will actually happen.  So don’t panic.  But horrendous acts on US soil and ongoing hostilities toward the US leave open the possibility for another attack within the US border or other major offense against its citizens.  There are things you can do to prepare that can reduce any anxiety you may feel.

Planning

Get informed.  Knowledge is power and it can help you feel empowered. Some regions are more vulnerable to an attack due to geographical location, the type of businesses located in your immediate vicinity, and relevance of governmental organizations in your area.  But emergency situations can have an impact on a larger scale.  So why not plan for the unexpected.

An emergency may affect your home.  So you should have a predetermined meeting place away from your home.  Make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include any pets in your plan.

Put together a disaster survival kit.  Store supplies in a duffel bag or plastic container with a lid.

  • Include “special needs” items such as mobility aids or care aids
  • First aid supplies (including a min of 7 day and preferably a month’s supply of prescription medications).
  • Change of clothing for each person is smart since there is a high probably of a multiple day emergency and clothes may become damp or damaged.
  • Sleeping bag, bedroll, or blanket is needed for sleeping and protection from the elements.
  • Get a radio, preferably self-powered design (NOAA Weather Radio has current, reliable information).  Batteries eventually run out and there is no way to predict how long the emergency will last.  Otherwise, use a battery powered radio or television and have a number of extra batteries.
  • Store food.  Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items are best (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home).  High calorie power bars, nuts and dried fruits are good options.
  • Store water.  Include one gallon per person, per day (a three day supply for evacuation and a two week supply for home is advised)
  • Some cash should be on hand since banks may not be open and loss of power impacts the operation of ATMs.
  • Buy bleach or iodine to disinfect water.  To sterilize water, for every 5 gallons of water, add 1 tsp of chlorine or chlorinated bleach, or 2 tsp of 2% iodine tincture. Use 1/4 teaspoon per half gallon.
  • Get a self-powered flashlight (or battery powered with extra batteries)
  • Include a number of glow sticks in your kit.  These are better than candles which can be a fire hazard.
  • Matches, flint stick or magnifying glass would be needed to start fires.
  • Good tennis shoes or support shoes will help in the event evacuation is needed and to prevent foot injury from debris.
  • A small hatchet with a hammer back is a great tool to help when debris is anticipated and there is a potential for facing the elements.
  • Rope has a variety of critical uses.
  • A multi-purpose tool has many functions and the compact design is easy to store.
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items may not be available in stores so pack compact size of needed products.
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) are important since electronic access to information may be unavailable and proof of identity and ownership may be needed.
  • Cell phone with chargers, preferably without reliance on electricity, keeps you connected to family and friends.
  • Document family and emergency contact information and store a copy in your survival kit.  Do not rely on memory.
  • Map(s) of the area can help you get around since there is the potential for evacuation.

Store copies of essential documents, i.e. powers of attorney, birth/marriage certificates, deeds, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will, in a safe location outside your home. A safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member are good options.

Bikes, if you are able to use one (there are three wheeled designs), can improve your ability to escape. Crowded highways and roadways with debris can bypassed with a bike.

Stay in good physical condition.  You should be doing this anyway!   Riding a bike and walking are great exercise any day and should be part of your daily exercise program if possible.

You may be forced to live outside for some time.  If you are physically able, plan for the potential of facing the elements.  Buy a small tent, Coleman stove, lanterns and fuel, and a cooler. If you have no tent, use a bedding quilt. It can be draped to make a tent, used to move heavy objects, or used as a cover. Dark colors are better to prevent drawing attention to your location.

Response

If Disaster Strikes

  • Remain calm.
  • Check for injuries. Administer first aid as needed and seek help for serious injuries.
  • Follow the advice of local emergency personnel.
  • Listen to your radio or television for updates and instructions.
  • If your home is damaged and appears to be unsafe, get out quickly and carefully.
  • If there is no immediate concern regarding structural integrity, check your home for damage, use a flashlight if lighting is an issue. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. If you smell smoke, get out quickly and carefully staying as close to the floor as possible.  Check for fire hazards, dangerous odors, i.e. gas leaks, or other major hazards.  If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve if easily accessible, open windows if possible, and get everyone outside quickly.  If no danger is suspected or found, leave natural gas service ON unless local officials direct otherwise. You may need gas for heating and cooking.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.
  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Call your family contact and do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency since response personnel need the bandwidth.

Evacuation

If local authorities ask you to leave your home, you should do so immediately. Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of the authorities.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
  • Take your disaster supplies kit.
  • Take your pets with you; do not leave them behind if at all possible.
  • Lock your home.
  • Unless impassable, only use routes designated by local authorities.
  • Stay away from downed power lines since there is a very real danger of electrocution.
  • Listen to local authorities for any updates on evacuation orders and/or routes.

If you are asked by authorities to “shelter in place,” remain inside your home and protect yourself there. Close and lock all windows and exterior doors. Turn off all electrical devices include heat and air. Close the fireplace damper, as applicable. Get your disaster supplies kit, and make sure the radio is working. Go to an interior room without windows that is above ground level.  If you are physically able, use duct tape to seal all cracks around the door and any vents into that room. Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Since news may be upsetting, if possible make arrangements to take turns listening to the news with other adult members of your household.  As emergency services will likely be overwhelmed, only call 9-1-1 about life-threatening emergencies.

Things you might expect

  • Depending on the event, there may be a large number of casualties.
  • Damage to buildings and infrastructure may be extensive.
  • A large number of law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels will likely be on site.
  • Health related services may be limited or unavailable for non-life threatening needs.
  • Extensive media coverage that may include news of upsetting local situations and international implications.
  • There may be restricted public transportation of any kind.
  • You and your family may have to evacuate an area.
  • Clean-up and recovery may take a very long time.