Handling Weather Emergencies: Part 2; Home Security, Evacuation, and Emergency Kits
Part 1 of this article on preparing for weather emergencies discussed forming an emergency plan to reduce the stress and worry of facing a full blown weather crisis.
The focus was on safeguarding your family by planning well in advance of any threat.
This, the second half of the article, looks at two things.
- Preparing your home to survive severe weather, and securing it in case you have to leave.
- Coping with evacuation or temporary isolation, and assembling one or more emergency kits.
Some forms of weather related emergency are capable of destroying your home no matter what you do – floods, tornadoes and Category 5 hurricanes come to mind.
But long term preparation and a clear plan for when severe weather is approaching can do a lot to protect your home from damage or destruction. Or to protect you if you are inside.
So put together a plan about securing your home and loading valuables and essential supplies into your vehicle in case you have to leave quickly.
Such tasks are made easier if you have been able to assemble suitable tools and equipment well before the problems arise.
Long term plans could include adding roof ties or even strapping down your house if strong winds are likely, or reinforcing an interior ground floor room to provide refuge from destructive winds.
Between a threat developing and dangerous weather arriving, there is usually some time to add protection to your home. Boarding up windows if faced with strong winds, or cutting back flammable vegetation and cleaning gutters if faced with a wildfire are worthwhile tasks if you have the time.
And as a last minute job, store outdoor furniture securely – apart from the probability of loss, a strong wind can turn them into effective missiles that could be directed at your home.
Finally, know how and where to turn off utilities – water, gas, power – and make sure other family members know it too.
An Emergency Kit is a pre-packed container which you can grab instantly if faced with a threatening situation. It should hold everything you will need if you are cut off from utilities and supplies, and should be kept separate from products and tools which you use everyday or for recreation.
It is also worth considering permanent kits for your car and workplace, but let’s focus on those kept at home.
Depending on the types of threats you may face, you could need two sorts – one if you have to leave and another if you are staying.
They should be designed to meet the particular needs of you and your family in the sorts of emergency you are most likely to face. For more information, visit the FEMA website, and check out their excellent manual at http://www.fema.gov/areyouready
Here are a few suggestions.
If you have to evacuate, your destination will probably provide food and shelter. Clothing and special needs – baby and infant needs, prescription and basic medical supplies – are the most important. Include extra warm clothes – heating may not be efficient. Food treats and special toys will make things easier for children. Some basic food and a couple of gallons of bottled water are always worth including just in case. A “keep your hands off” supply of emergency cash is also a great idea.
Alternatively, if you are likely to be isolated and unable to leave your home for a while, assemble a kit which will keep you supplied for at least three days. Assume you will have no power, heat, water or waste disposal.
The essentials are plenty of water – allow 1 gallon (4.5l) per person per day, of which half will be drinking water. Commercial bottled water is a good choice. Include non perishable food, preferably low salt, and don’t forget a manual can opener. You’ll need a battery powered radio and a flashlight, both with plenty of extra batteries, and a first aid kit.
A camp stove and gas bottles are a great addition, and you’ll need some cooking gear and some matches in a water proof container. Make sure you have enough infant or special needs, plus any necessary medication. And warm clothes should be included, plus strong shoes.
Now much of this gear will be in your house anyway, but the point of this kit is that it can double for an evacuation kit, and will be ideal if your destination is somewhere other than relatives or an emergency shelter.
OK, you’ve given up some of your valuable time and made your plans for all likely eventualities. Chances are you’ll never have to use them, but things happen, and the hundred year flood may turn up next year. You can now relax and know you’ve done your best to protect your family and your home.
One more thing. Include in your plans some time in a year or so to review everything, to make sure everyone understands the plan, and to go through the emergency kits and replace anything that’s damaged or out of date. It won’t take long, and you’ll be ready for anything.