Devastating acts, such as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, have left many concerned about the possibility of future incidents in the United States and their potential impact. They have raised uncertainty about what might happen next, increasing stress levels. However, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected and reduce the stress that you may feel now, or in the future should another emergency arise. Taking preparatory action can reassure you and your family that you can exert a measure of control even in the face of such events.
Although the threat of bioterrorism (the use of biological agents to damage or destroy human life) has recently captured our attention, we need to be prepared to respond to other types of emergency and disaster events such as:
- Extreme Weather EVENTS
- Hurricanes & Floods
- Extreme Weather CONDITIONS
- Winter Storms
- Droughts & Heat Waves
- CHEMICAL ACCIDENTS
- FIRE or EXPLOSIONS
We cannot always prevent disasters and emergencies from happening, but there are many things that we can do to as individuals, families and communities. AWARENESS is the first step in becoming prepared.
THINK FAST ... IN AN EMERGENCY
The first step you can take for preparing for ANY disaster - whether natural or manmade - is a basic awareness of potential emergencies.
Become familiar with the natural disasters associated with weather emergencies in your area:
FLOODS are most of the most common hazards in the United States. Go to higher ground during floods. Moving water only six inches deep can knock you off your feet, and will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles.
Every THUNDERSTORM produces lightening. Lightening is unpredictable: every year it injures an average of 300 people and kills another 80, usually striking people who are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening. Lightening often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. When thunderstorms threaten your area, get inside a building or hard top automobile and stay indoors for 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder.
WINTER STORMS that bring heavy snow or ice can trap you in your home until the roads are cleared. Be alert to weather reports of in-coming storms: keep a supply of bottled water and non-perishable foods in the house, purchase an electric (not kerosene or propane fueled) space heater for extra warmth ... and get home before the storm strikes (about 70% of winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles).
Become familiar with the CHEMICAL HAZARDS in your community. Locate the facilities that use, produce or store hazardous products, as well as any routes (highway and railway) that are used to transport hazardous materials through your community.
Some chemicals are colorless and odorless: do not ignore instructions to evacuate (which could last for a few hours or a several days) or shelter-in-place (to seek safety in your home or other building you might be in at the time of the chemical release).
If you are instructed to evacuate your home because of any emergency:
Learn about emergency plans for your children's school or daycare center - you may be instructed not to come for your children as school may be the safest place for them to be.
Shut off the water, gas and electricity at their main switches.
Let others know when you left and where you are going.
Make arrangements for your pets. If you are going to a public shelter, pets may not be allowed. If animals are to be left behind, leave adequate food and water.
Bring your evacuation Supply Kit with you. If you are traveling by car, bring your Emergency Car Kit to keep in your vehicle.
KEEPING FOOD & WATER SAFE
A sudden storm ... high winds ... and the power's out! Unexpected power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when they are prolonged. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you need not be concerned. Perishable foods are ruined when they are held above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. What to do...
Do not open the refrigerator or freezer ... remind your children to keep the doors closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for at least a few hours. A freezer that is half full will hold it's temperature for up to 24 hours, and a full freezer for 48 hours.
If the power is out for more than 2-4 hours, pack refrigerated milk, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, gravy, stuffing and leftovers in a plastic or styrofoam cooler surrounded by ice. If it looks like the power outage will be prolonged, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
Keep shelf stable, non-refrigerated foods in the house (canned goods, dry cereal and powdered or boxed milk, peanut butter and crackers or rice cakes, bottled juice) to make opening the refrigerator less necessary.
As soon as the power returns, check temperatures. Purchase a digital or quick response thermometer before an emergency ... a digital thermometer is an everyday kitchen tool that easily checks the internal temperatures of cooked foods for doneness and safety. Never taste food to determine its safety!
If food in the freezer (or the cooler) has ice crystals and is not above 40 degrees you can refreeze. There will be loss of quality with refreezing, but the food will still be safe.
If you are unsure of the refrigerated foods' temperature, or how long it has been above 40 degrees, discard all perishables. When in doubt ... throw it out!
If there is a water emergency that affects the quality and safety of your drinking water, you may be asked to "purify" water before using it. Two easy purification methods ... boiling and disinfection ... are outlined below.
These measures will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.
BOILING is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Allow the water to cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
DISINFECTION with household liquid bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) will also kill microorganisms. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.
The only agent used to purify water should be household liquid bleach. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores are also not recommended and should not be used.
FAMILY EMERGENCY PLAN
Making a Family Emergency Plan before it's needed will help family members stay calm in an emergency ... and can save lives! Family members are not always together when an emergency occurs, but your family can get back together if you have made - and reviewed - a plan.
Assemble an evacuation Supply Kit and store in easy-to-carry duffle bags or backpacks:
Bottled water: one gallon per person per day (replace every 6 months)
Nonperishable food, peanut butter, crackers, dry cereal, bottled or canned food (include a manual can opener)
First aid kit, including prescription medications
Battery-powered radio, clock, flash-lights, and a supply of extra batteries
Change of clothing, footwear and rain gear, blanket or sleeping bag and towel for each person
An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler's checks
Plastic garbage bags
Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members
Important family documents in a water-proof container or ziplock bag
ID to put on all children
Prepare an Emergency Car Kit and keep in a waterproof container in your vehicle's trunk:
Battery-powered radio, flashlights and a supply of extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Bottled water and non-perishable high energy foods such peanut butter & crackers, granola bars or dried fruit
State and county maps
Tire repair kit and pump
Booster cables, flares & small shovel
Basic tools (include extra fluids, spare belts, bulbs, etc.)
Small fire extinguisher
Maintain a full tank of gas for emergency travel and to prevent the lines from freezing during cold weather
FAMILY EMERGENCY PLAN
Set up two family meeting places:
One meeting place right outside the building in case you need to leave home in an emergency, such as a fire (the street light in front of your home, down the street at the Smith's mailbox) Meeting place _____________________________________
One meeting place outside of your neighborhood in case you cannot get back home when an emergency occurs (your grandparents' house across town, in front of the library or local school)
Meeting place _____________________________________
Designate a local contact that everyone can call to report their location and "check in"
Phone number ____
Designate an out-of-town contact - it may be easier to call long distance than locally in an emergency
Phone number ___________________________________
Remember to notify "contacts" that they are part of your Family Emergency Plan
Unless you actually need assistance from the police, fire or ambulance , do NOT call 911. For local information and announcements, tune into:
WHWH (1350 AM) WBUD (1260 AM)
WPST (97.5 FM) WNJO (94.5 FM)
Cable: COMCAST local access channel
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS RESOURCES
AMERICAN RED CROSS www.redcross.org Local chapter (609) 951-8550
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL www.bt.cdc.gov Toll Free (800) 246-2675
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY www.fema.gov Toll Free (800) 480-2520
MEDLINE PLUS www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus Search: disasters and emergency preparedness