Are you prepared in the event of an emergency? (image via flickr)

Today’s newspapers and internet sites seem to highlight some new catastrophe almost every day.  Whether it is a drought in the U.S., flooding caused by a typhoon in the Philippines, or an earthquake that destroys most of an island nation, emergency situations are all around us.  Now, more than ever, families need to take steps to be ready in case one of these catastrophic events comes to call.

September is National Preparedness Month and organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross will be working with communities and families to raise awareness about the need for emergency preparedness and to offer advice and information on what kind of preparations need to be made.  The primary goal of National Preparedness Month is to get people to understand the importance of preparing before disaster strikes.  To help increase awareness, here are 4 things every household should do in order to be ready and be able to respond.

1.     Fire Evacuation Plan

In 2010, statistics show there were more than 360,000 house fires in the U.S.  and 2,640 people lost their lives as a result.   Unlike some other natural disasters that only impact certain areas, house fires can happen to anyone.  Make sure your family has a fire evacuation plan that includes at least two ways out of every room.

2.     Emergency Contact Information

One of the scariest things family members encounter when there is a crisis is not being able to find loved ones.  Establishing an emergency communication plan that includes meeting places, important contact numbers, and how to use an out of town relay to locate and communicate with each other is your best defense.

3.     Evacuation Plan

If the time ever comes that it is no longer safe to remain in your home, you won’t likely have time to formulate the best evacuation plan either.  In order to be ready if that order ever comes, you need to know where the closest shelter is in your town as well as where emergency shelters can be found in neighboring towns or cities.  You need to have an emergency kit that contains everything your family will need for 72 hours already packed and ready to go with you in the car.

4.     Sheltering in Place

Just like there are times when you must leave your home, there are times when leaving is the last thing you want to do.  Every family should have a plan for remaining in their home for several weeks without access to outside resources like the grocery store or essential services like electricity.   By stocking enough food, water, medicine, and other critical supplies ahead of time, you can feel confident that if there is a reason not to go out, you won’t have to just to survive.

You don’t need to stockpile several years of food, learn to spin your own wool thread, or spend thousands of dollars on tools and equipment it is unlikely you will ever use in order to be prepared.  It only takes a little time, a little effort, and a trip or two to the grocery store to make sure your family is ready to weather whatever storms come your way.

 

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Double check these items to make sure your home is safe (image via Arrow Fence Co)

June is National Home Safety Month and the National Safety Council, in conjunction with partners across the country, is encouraging everyone to participate by doing their part to make their home a safer place to live. 

Here are 8 things you can do this month to reduce the risk of preventable injuries and property damage.

1.     Check Your Smoke Alarms

This is something you are likely to hear several times a year, but there is a reason that it comes up so often – it is important.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, two thirds of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms.  Check that each alarm has good batteries and that the alarm itself is in good working condition. Make sure you have enough smoke detectors to provide proper protection for all members of your family.

2.     Have a Fire Drill

Your family needs to practice escaping from a home fire for the same reason that children practice evacuating their school building in the event of a fire; practice makes it easier to do what you need to during a crisis.  The best way to protect your family in a fire is to make sure they know what to do and how to get out of the house.

3.     Make a List of Emergency Phone Numbers

We sometimes take for granted that everyone knows what to do and who to call when there is a crisis but this isn’t always the case.  Make a list of important phone numbers including the police and fire station, close family members, the poison center, neighbors, and family doctors and dentists.

4.     Create a Basic Emergency Plan

Make a plan for basic emergencies that lets all family members know what to do and where to go when something happens.  Your basic plan should include an outside meeting place, the location of basic emergency supplies like flashlights, and the process for shutting off utilities like water and electricity.

5.     Do More than Spring Clean

Clean all lint out of your dryer and exhaust hose.  Have your furnace cleaned and inspected.  Get your septic system pumped.

6.     Keep Things Grounded

Make sure all major appliances like refrigerators, dryers, washers, and dishwashers are grounded.  Locate and test all the GFCI outlets in your house and make sure other family members know where they are.  Don’t overload outlets.

7.     Place Emergency Supplies Throughout the House

You don’t just need a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or near the woodstove.  To be safe, put a fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector, flashlight, and first aid kit on each floor of the house.  Make sure all family members know where these supplies are located and how to use them.

8.     Eliminate  or Mitigate Risky Areas

If you have a swimming pool, make sure there is a solid fence around the pool that is locked when you are not paying attention to it.  If you have a hot tub, keep it covered when it is not in use.  Protect your family and your neighbors by making it difficult to use these things without you being present.

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Article provided by The Hartford

Are you prepared if you get stranded in your car? Image via MJIphotos on Flickr.

Having an emergency preparedness kit in your car is sort of like having good insurance. You hope you’ll never need it—but boy are you glad it’s there on road trips if you have an accident or need to help others.

If you become stranded, it can be critical to have the right supplies to speed up being rescued, say driver-safety experts. This is especially true in winter weather, when having the right supplies could also mean your survival.

It’s easy to be prepared for road trips. Emergency kits with most of these essentials cost $30 to $100 at stores that sell auto accessories. But you can also assemble your own emergency preparedness kit. To be ready for any roadside emergency, here’s what you should include.

In the Trunk

Use a sturdy canvas bag with handles or a plastic bin to store your emergency preparedness kit, and secure it so it doesn’t roll or bounce around when the car is moving. Include the following:

  •  Flashlight and extra batteries
  •  Cloth or roll of paper towels
  •  Jumper cables
  •  Blankets
  •  Flares or warning triangles
  •  Drinking water
  •  Nonperishable snacks, such as energy or granola bars
  •  Extra clothes
  •  First-aid kit
  • Basic tool kit that includes, at minimum, flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers, pliers, and adjustable wrench

Winter Add-ons

Inventory your items in the winter and spring, and include these six items before the winter months:

  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper
  • Bag of sand, salt, or cat litter, or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Snow brush
  • Gloves, hats, and additional blanket
  • Glove Compartment

Not all emergency equipment should be behind the backseat or in the trunk. Here are three essential items to stow within the driver’s reach:

  • Mobile phone
  • Phone charger
  • Auto-safety hammer (some have an emergency beacon and belt-cutting tool, too)
Evacuation Plan

Do you have an evacuation plan in the event of a natural disaster? Image via YardSale on Flickr

No matter where you live, there is always the possibility that an emergency can arise and that disaster can strike.  The most important thing in any emergency is to preserve life, but after that, there are things that every homeowner should know that can help protect and preserve their home and property.  There is a reason that school children practice what they would do if there was a fire at the school.  Planning what to do in the event of a crisis and practicing carrying out that plan builds up muscle memory that can make all the difference when stress hormones and adrenaline make it difficult to think clearly.

Make sure you are prepared for whatever comes your way; here are four things to get you started.

1.     How to Shut Off Utilities

According to FEMA, homeowners may need to shut off the utilities following a disaster.  Ruptured gas lines and electrical sparks can cause fires or explosions and broken water mains can pollute the water stored in your house.  It is important that everyone in your household knows where the shut-off valves for all utilities are located and how to shut them off.  Make sure you also understand the proper procedure for turning utilities back on as things like propane and natural gas must be turned on by a professional.

2.     How You Will Be Notified if You Must Evacuate

The order for a community to evacuate comes from local government officials.  FEMA states that the first and most common method for notification of the public is the media.  Officials may also use sirens, phone calls, and door to door sweeps to alert homeowners in the evacuation zone.  If there is an emergency situation and your family does not feel safe remaining at home, you don’t have to wait for the order to leave, you can choose to evacuate on your own.  In the event that you have to evacuate, the time you have can vary.  Depending on the situation you may have as long as a day or two or as little as minutes.  In addition to knowing how you will be notified, you should have an evacuation plan that includes more than one way to leave your area.  This ensures you won’t be trying to figure out another way out of the city if your primary route is blocked.

3.    How to Get Out of the House if There is a Fire

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were more than 350,000 house fires in 2010 resulting in almost 3,000 deaths.  Many homeowners don’t realize that they may have less than 2 minutes to escape.  When time is that short and the house is filling with smoke, you want every member in your family to know exactly what to do without having to think about it.  Your fire evacuation plan should include two ways to get out of every room.   Take a lesson from those school children and practice your home evacuation plan at least twice a year.

4.     How to Deal with Natural Threats
Where you live will determine which natural threats you need to be prepared for and in order to be ready for an emergency, you need to know what threats can happen where you live.  The plans and preparations you need to have in place vary depending on which natural threats are likely in your area.  Once you have identified the natural threats, take time to learn what to do in the event a natural threat becomes a reality.

With a little thought and planning, homeowners may be able to minimize the damage to their home and loss of their possessions when an emergency arises.

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