We recently published an article about hurricanes, which can be very hazardous; but normally when a hurricane is approaching, you have a few days warning to prepare for it. Some natural disasters can strike suddenly and unexpectedly. It is easy to feel that you are safe from harm when there is no imminent danger, giving you a false sense of security; however, that is the best time to prepare your home and office for an unforeseen threat. In this article, we will be discussing thunderstorms, earthquakes, floods and tornados, all of which can transpire swiftly and without warning. We have outlined details on how to prepare for these natural disasters, before they happen, enabling you to have the highest advantage should calamity occur.
Thunderstorms can produce straight-line winds that exceed 100 miles per hour. For this reason you should treat severe thunderstorms just as you would tornadoes. Move to an appropriate shelter if you are in the path of the storm. Because tornadoes often accompany thunderstorms, pay close attention to changing weather conditions when there is a severe thunderstorm watch or warning. (We will give more information on tornadoes later in this article.)
- A severe thunderstorm watch means severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
- A severe thunderstorm warning means severe thunderstorms are occurring in your area.
- Get inside a building or enclosed vehicle. Many fatalities occur when warning signs are ignored.
- If you are caught in an open area with lightning around, crouch down immediately! Put your hands on your knees, but don’t lie down on the ground.
- Do not use a telephone or electrical appliance when lightning is taking place. A nearby lightning strike can travel through phone or power lines, right into the home.
- Never seek shelter beneath one lone tree.
Myth: If it is not raining, there is no danger from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes away from rainfall. It may occur as far as ten miles away from any rainfall.
Myth: Rubber soles on shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being injured by lightning.
Fact: Rubber provides no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides some protection if you are not touching metal.
Myth: People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.
Fact: Lightning victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.
Myth: Heat lightning occurs on very hot summer days and poses no threat.
Fact: What is referred to as heat lightning is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
In most situations, you will reduce your chance of injury from falling objects (and even building collapse) if you immediately crawl under a desk or other type of shelter and hold your hands over your head.
Surviving an earthquake and reducing its health impact requires preparation, planning, and practice. Far in advance, you can gather emergency supplies, identify and reduce possible hazards in your home, and practice what to do during and after an earthquake. Learning what actions to take can help you and your family to remain safe and healthy in the event of an earthquake.
Stock up now on emergency supplies that can be used after an earthquake. These supplies should include a first aid kit, survival kits for the home, automobile, and workplace, and emergency water and food. Store enough supplies to last at least 3 days.
First Aid Kit
Store your first aid supplies in a tool box or fishing tackle box so they will be easy to carry and protected from water. Inspect your kit regularly and keep it freshly stocked. NOTE: Important medical information and most prescriptions can be stored in the refrigerator, which also provides excellent protection from fires. Click here for information on additional first aid supplies you may want to stock up on.
If you are under a flood watch or warning:
- Gather the emergency supplies you previously stocked in your home and stay tuned to local radio or television station for updates.
- Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
- Have your immunization records handy or be aware of your last tetanus shot, in case you should receive a puncture wound or a wound becomes contaminated during or after the flood.
- Fill bathtubs, sinks and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach. Rinse and fill with clean water.
- Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside or tie them down securely.
Emergency Supplies You Will Need
You should stock your home with supplies that may be needed during the emergency period. At a minimum, these supplies should include:
- Several clean containers for water, large enough for a 3-5 day supply of water (about five gallons for each person).
- A 3-5 day supply of non-perishable food and a non-electric can opener.
- A first aid kit and manual and prescription medicines and special medical needs.
- A battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- Sleeping bags or extra blankets.
- Water-purifying supplies, such as chlorine or iodine tablets or unscented, ordinary household chlorine bleach.
- Baby food and/or prepared formula, diapers, and other baby supplies.
- Disposable cleaning cloths, such as “baby wipes” for the whole family to use in case bathing facilities are not available.
- Personal hygiene supplies, such as soap, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, etc.
- An emergency kit for your car with food, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, etc.
- Rubber boots, sturdy shoes, and waterproof gloves.
- Insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin, screens, or long-sleeved and long-legged clothing for protection from mosquitoes which may gather in pooled water remaining after the floodreparing to Evacuate.
Expect the need to evacuate and prepare for it. When a flood watch is issued, you should:
- Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and make sure the emergency kit for your car is ready.
- If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
- Identify essential documents such as medical records, insurance card along with ID cards and put in waterproof material to carry with you during evacuation.
- Fill your clean water containers.
- If you have pet, identify a shelter designated for pets.
- Review your emergency plans and supplies, checking to see if any items are missing.
- Tune in the radio or television for weather updates.
- Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.
- Put livestock and family pets in a safe area. Due to food and sanitation requirements, emergency shelters cannot accept animals.
- Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature.
If You Are Ordered to Evacuate
You should never ignore an evacuation order. Authorities will direct you to leave if you are in a low-lying area, or within the greatest potential path of the rising waters. If a flood warning is issued for your area or you are directed by authorities to evacuate the area:
- Take only essential items with you.
- If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.
- Disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored.
- Follow the designated evacuation routes and expect heavy traffic.
- Do not attempt to drive or walk across creeks or flooded roads.
If You Are Ordered NOT to Evacuate
To get through the storm in the safest possible manner:
- Monitor the radio or television for weather updates.
- Prepare to evacuate to a shelter or to a neighbor’s home if your home is damaged, or if you are instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
Stay Tuned for Storm Watches and Warnings. When there are thunderstorms in your area, turn on your radio or TV to get the latest emergency information from local authorities. Listen for announcements of a tornado watch or tornado warning.
Local Warning System. Learn about the tornado warning system of your county or locality. Most tornado-prone areas have a siren system. Know how to distinguish between the siren’s warnings for a tornado watch and a tornado warning.
During a tornado watch:
- Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations or a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for further weather information.
- Watch the weather and be prepared to take shelter immediately if conditions worsen.
Keep fresh batteries and a battery-powered radio or TV on hand. Electrical power is often interrupted during thunderstorms–just when information about weather warnings is most needed.
Important Measures To Take
- Take a few minutes with your family to develop a tornado emergency plan. Sketch a floor plan of where you live, or walk through each room and discuss where and how to seek shelter.
- Show a second way to exit from each room or area. If you need special equipment, such as a rope ladder, mark where it is located.
- Make sure everyone understands the siren warning system, if there’s such a system in your area.
- Mark where your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers are located.
- Mark where the utility switches or valves are located so they can be turned off–if time permits–in an emergency.
- Teach your family how to administer basic first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.
- Learn the emergency dismissal policy for your child’s school.
- Make sure your children know–
- What a tornado is
- What tornado watches and warnings are
- What county or parish they live in (warnings are issued by county or parish)
- How to take shelter, whether at home or at school.
Writing Down Important Information. Make a list of important information. Include these on your list:
- Important telephone numbers, such as emergency (police and fire), paramedics, and medical centers.
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your insurance agents, including policy types and numbers.
- Telephone numbers of the electric, gas, and water companies.
- Names and telephone numbers of neighbors.
- Name and telephone number of your landlord or property manager.
- Important medical information (for example, allergies, regular medications, and brief medical history).
- Year, model, license, and identification numbers of your vehicles (automobiles, boats, and RVs).
- Bank’s or credit union’s telephone number, and your account numbers.
- Radio and television broadcast stations to tune to for emergency broadcast information.
During a Tornado
Signs of an Approaching Storm. Some tornadoes strike rapidly, without time for a tornado warning, and sometimes without a thunderstorm in the vicinity. When you are watching for rapidly emerging tornadoes, it is important to know that you cannot depend on seeing a funnel: clouds or rain may block your view. The following weather signs may mean that a tornado is approaching:
- A dark or green-colored sky.
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud.
- Large hail.
- A loud roar that sounds like a freight train.
Taking Shelter. Your family could be anywhere when a tornado strikes–at home, at work, at school, or in the car. Discuss with your family where the best tornado shelters are and how family members can protect themselves from flying and falling debris.
At Home. Pick a place in the home where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. One basic rule is AVOID WINDOWS. An exploding window can injure or kill.
The safest place in the home is the interior part of a basement. If there is no basement, go to an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet.
For added protection, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or workbench. If possible, cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress, and protect your head with anything available–even your hands. Avoid taking shelter where there are heavy objects, such as pianos or refrigerators, on the area of floor that is directly above you. They could fall though the floor if the tornado strikes your house.
General Safety Precautions. Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:
- Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
- Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
- Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
- Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
- Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood, or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
- Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper—or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. Carbon monoxide (CO)–an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it–from these sources can build up in your home, garage, or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
- Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
- Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
- Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management, and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts, and you could endanger yourself.
After tornadoes, excess moisture & water can contribute to growth of mold in homes & other buildings. Click here for more information on protecting yourself from mold.