Emergency preparedness is a subject that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Families either don’t want to imagine the possibility of a disaster occurring or believe there is a very slim chance of one happening to them. Most families have no plan in place for emergencies at all. Here’s the reality: every family needs to be fully prepared for multiple types of emergency situations, regardless of how likely the situation is. In 2017 alone, weather-related events accounted for 592 deaths and 4,270 injuries. Disasters don’t care who you are or where you live, they can affect anyone, and that’s why everyone needs a plan of action. If you can’t imagine exactly what you would do during an earthquake, flood, hurricane, or tornado, then you’re not prepared enough. Now is the time to find out how to keep your family as safe as possible.General Recommendations
- During an emergency, stay updated on events by checking the radio, TV, or internet. Be aware that some emergencies can disable cable, electric, and cell phone service, which can make it nearly impossible to communicate.
- The National Safety Council recommends downloading the FEMA app on your phone. This app provides resources, weather alerts, and vital safety tips that can help keep you safe.
- Create a family plan that can apply to different emergency situations. All family members should read through and practice the plan until its familiarized.
- Write down or memorize all family members’ phone numbers.
- Always keep an emergency kit inside your car.
- Keep at least three days of food and water at home.
- Have your family learn first aid and CPR.
Earthquakes are a common occurrence for some portions of the country, especially in places like California, but earthquakes have the potential to happen anywhere, even if they’re just tremors. We often think that there’s no reason to worry about earthquakes if we don’t live near a fault line, but this is the wrong mindset to have.
Consider the possibility of an earthquake that’s so severe that it can impact multiple states at once. For example, the New Madrid Fault located in the central U.S. is poised to experience a major earthquake in the next coming decades. Memphis, Tennessee is at the epicenter of the fault, but scientists expect the next major quake to reach as far as Washington, D.C. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can still be affected.
Here are some ways you can protect your family:
- Secure all large appliances in the house to prevent injury from sliding or falling objects.
- Install flexible gas and water connections.
- Avoid hanging heavy objects above where you sleep.
- If an earthquake occurs while you’re outside, immediately move away from all buildings, street lights, utility wires, and overpasses. Keep yourself in the open until the shaking stops.
- If you’re inside during an earthquake, immediately drop to the ground and take cover. You can hide underneath a table or large piece of furniture. If nothing is nearby, cover your face and head with your arms and find a corner to crouch in. Avoid windows, glass, and objects that could fall. If the earthquake starts while you’re in bed, stay in the bed and cover your head with a pillow unless there’s a risk of an object falling on you. Do not try to use a doorway as support, as most are lightly constructed and can fall apart easily. Stay inside until the shaking has stopped completely and you feel it’s safe to move outside. Do not try to leave a building while it’s shaking, it increases your risk of injury.
- If you’re in a car during an earthquake, stop as quickly as you can in a safe manner. Stay in the vehicle during the shaking and avoid parking near buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Once the shaking has completely stopped, proceed with caution and avoid possible damage on the road.
- If you find yourself trapped under debris, do not move or flail around. Cover your mouth with clothing and avoid inhaling dust. To help rescuers find you, tap on a pipe or wall instead of shouting.
Floods are possibly the most dangerous weather event you can run into. In fact, flash floods are currently the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. The worst part about floods and flash floods is that they can happen anywhere at any time. Flash floods have the potential to rise as high as 30 feet or more, and this can happen mere minutes after heavy rainfall. Floods can devastate communities by moving homes, cars, uprooting trees, and destroying infrastructure. Unfortunately, too many people don’t take floods seriously. There have been countless stories of people becoming stranded in their car because they were swept away after trying to cross a flooded road. Here are some tips to remember:
- If you’re driving and come across a water-covered or flooded road, do not try to cross it even if the water looks shallow. 6 inches of water can stall a vehicle, and 12 inches can float most cars. Do the right thing and turn around.
- Be aware of your location and how close it is to rivers, streams, and dams.
- Avoid going to underpasses, parking garages, and basements during heavy rainfall.
- Create a family evacuation plan to follow in case your house starts to flood.
- Do not try to walk in water that comes above your ankles. Just 6 inches of rushing water is enough to sweep you off your feet.
- When there is risk of flooding, turn off the electricity and other utilities.
Hurricanes are the most powerful storms on earth. In some ways, we can appreciate the beauty of a hurricane, just by recognizing the sheer power of it. But hurricanes are incredibly deadly, and they almost always leave behind a path of complete destruction. A hurricane brings all potential disasters together -- floods, tornadoes, lightning, and more.
The best thing about hurricanes is that we have the ability to forecast their direction several days, even weeks, before landfall. This gives residents plenty of time to prepare and evacuate. Do most people do that, however? Of course not. Most people in the path of a hurricane feel like they can make it through the storm or do not want to go through the inconvenience of packing up their stuff and leaving. If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, listen closely to our advice. If your state official advises residents to evacuate, do not ignore them. Meteorologists have the tools to identify whether a storm is too dangerous to be in, and you should always take their advice seriously. Here are some other helpful tips:
- Before the hurricane comes, board up windows and secure any loose items.
- Create a plan beforehand that outlines where to go in case of an evacuation, how to get there safely, establishing a meetup point, and designating one person to keep track of everyone’s location.
- Take shelter in a strong, sturdy building.
- Do not drive in flooded areas. If you are stuck in a situation where water is rising around your car, leave the car and seek higher ground.
- Keep up to date on the storm through radio, TV, or Internet.
- Avoid getting near electrical equipment, power cords, metal, and water.
- Stay away from windows and seek shelter in a bathroom. Bathrooms provide more support since they are surrounded by walls inside the house. If there are no issues with flooding, you can also shelter in the basement.
- Stay indoors until you have been notified that it is safe to go outside.
Just like floods, tornadoes can happen anywhere. Did you know that the United States has the most tornadoes per year than any other country? We are unique in the sense that every state has been affected by tornadoes, and our central plains are made up of nearly perfect weather conditions for a tornado to form. Tornadoes can be extremely violent, with winds that can reach up to 300mph. This type of intense wind has the power to throw cars in the air, rip apart homes, and turn small debris into deadly weapons. Tornadoes are also just scary to look at. They are huge, loud, and often hard to detect at first. The widest tornado recorded ever recorded in 2013 had a width of over 2 miles. Here’s what to do if you spot a tornado:
- As soon as you see or are informed about a tornado coming, find shelter immediately.
- If you’re inside a house, go to the basement and take cover under something sturdy like a table. If there’s no basement, find a windowless room in the center of the house, such as a bathroom.
- If you’re outside, lay down in a ditch or another low-lying area and cover your head.
- If you’re driving, the best option is to get out and seek shelter inside. However, if you really can’t find a safe place, try to drive at right angles to the tornado’s path.
- While sheltering, cover yourself with a rug or mattress to help protect you from flying debris.
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