Are You Prepared for a Home Disaster?

An unforeseen catastrophe can explode in your placid, contented home anytime. Calamities know no time schedule, and when they strike, there’s no avoiding them. Are you prepared for a home disaster? You should be! Once a disaster happens, the time to prepare is gone and all you can do is cope …and hope.

Now is the time for you and your family to have a serious “sit down” and go over what you should do. With the increase potential of man-made cataclysms such as sabotage of a power grid, each of you should be making plans of how to deal with situations you’ve never faced before.

Are You Prepared for a Home Disaster?
Are You Prepared for a Home Disaster?

ZAP!! Crackle! Pop! – Big Picture Considerations

No matter what the event, at a minimum, you should expect to be isolated and on your own for at least 3 days and nights. Loss of utilities are common after a disaster. Power outages are a given, but water may be scarce as well.  Here are some other considerations:

  • Without electricity your furnace may not function and definitely there will be no air conditioning.
  • The phone system may be inoperable.
  • Don’t count on your cell phone since without power their towers won’t function.
  • Your only source of news will be the car radio, and that’s if your local radio station has generator equipment.
  • There might not be medical help for minor cuts or broken bones for several days.
  • There may be no gasoline available – without power, there is no way to pump the gas.
  • The money in your pocket will have to last until power is returned – cash cards will be useless if power or phone lines are lost.

Many stores will have a hard time opening since items don’t have prices on them anymore, thanks to scanning cash registers.

Being Prepared for Whatever Might Happen

There’s no way to know what kind of disasters might hit, or specifically what strategies will be needed, but here are some general plans that will work in a large number of disasters:

Have clothing close by at bedtime. Never go to bed without some clothing nearby you can pull on in the dark and confusion – gym shorts, a t-shirt, flip flops. You’re going to be going out in a cataclysm, not down a fashion runway, so don’t fret about how it looks! Just have something you can slap on to protect you from rain, hail, wind and debris.

Keep a flashlight (with working batteries!) in the bedside drawer. If you don’t wear your watch to bed, get in the habit. You’re going to need some frame of reference in the chaos outside the four walls of your home.

Keep your cellphone fully charged. And keep the phone at your bedside. Not only will its dim light be welcome, but it might be the only link you’ll have to the outside world … if the cell grid is still operational.

Do a quick roll call of your family members and pets. Once you’ve determined everyone is at least able to move, immediately execute that family evacuation plan -which should have been prepared in advance. Create an plan with escape routes and meeting places. Choose both a nearby meeting place within walking distance and an out-of-state relative to be your check in contact for the family. Test your emergency plan with all members of the family present. Fire drills aren’t just for school children anymore! Teach your children how to get help from neighbors and 911.

Collapsible and folding ladders need to be available. They can be found at hardware stores, and are a must for all non-ground floor rooms in your house. This is something you might need to practice, especially since some folks are not really comfortable climbing down a swinging ladder.

Designate a “safe room”. The best places are under major beams secured to the rest of the structure, or in strong doorways, or inner structural walls. The worst places are in front of windows, or near fireplaces and chimneys. It could be a closet, bathroom, storage space on the ground floor in a northwest or southeast corner (optimal for tornado’s). Have your protective gear stored nearby – bicycle helmets (football or baseball helmets also do the job) for everyone, a heavy blanket for each person. Cocoon yourself in the blanket with your helmet on. If you have room there and can protect your animals, do it, but don’t waste time – their running loose may be their best defense.

Plan to stay sheltered in place until all the commotion ceases, then wait a few more minutes. There can be waves of destruction in storms. Once a semblance of peace has settled in, then you can emerge from your protection and start to assess the damage.

Having Your Ducks in a Row Before The Event

Here are some more specific advanced planning recommendations:

  • Keep photos of family members in wallet in case they turn up missing.
  • Train all your family members in turning off utilities.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, in the kitchen, laundry room, and near sleeping areas.
  • Contact your school district to obtain policy regarding how children will be released from school. Know the location of the nearest police and fire stations, as well as the route to the nearest hospital emergency room. Meet with neighbors and find out who has medical experience.
  • Always keep your car’s gas tank full! Fill it when it reaches 1/2 a tank -you never know when your car might become your temporary shelter.
  • Think of your car’s trunk as a big steel supply cabinet. Keep your supplies in the trunk along with other items like tools, jumper cables and spare tire.
  • Keep your car in a constant state of readiness. Your car will be one of your most important resources after a disaster strikes. Keep it mechanically sound, and pay close attention to the exhaust system. A leaking exhaust system could kill. Replace your battery every 2-3 years.

Keep Your Home Well Stocked for Emergencies

Home is where you have the largest storage space available. Go through this stripped down list and start making plans to have these things ready:

Water: 30 gallons per person (2 gallons per person per day for 2 weeks). This might sound excessive, but look at your water bill this month!

Food: Canned goods, ready to eat soups, meats, veggies and fruit. Date the top of anything you buy with a black permanent marker. Plan a minimum of 3 cans per person per day for a week. Don’t forget a manual can opener in case there’s no power! Long shelf life freeze dried or dehydrated foods are an option, but these items require water.

Shelter: A two person tube tent minimum (a larger size is better); a wool blanket or sleeping bag; a propane powered heater, 20 pound cylinder mounted.

Medical: First aid kit and first aid manual; extra prescription medications; aspirin or ibuprofen.

Light: Flashlight with 2 sets of spare alkaline batteries and one spare bulb. Newer LED flashlights are also available and run much longer on a set of batteries. You might also want a lantern (battery, kerosene or propane powered). Store some long life candles and waterproof matches or lighter.

Communication: AM/FM radio. Store at least 3 sets of alkaline batteries for standard units. The best radio is one that has rechargeable NI-cads built in, chargeable with the built-in solar cell, or by cranking on a built in generator handle.

Information: Have a pen, pencil, and paper pad stored in a zip lock bag. Make a list of important phone numbers that you keep in your wallet. A bit expensive, but a weather and police scanning radio are “musts” in tornado or hurricane country.

Tools: Fire extinguisher, large 5-20 pound, type ABC. Crow bar, 1 foot minimum. Leather gloves, multi-function pocket tool or knife, a plastic tarp, 9×12 foot minimum, nylon rope, 100 foot. And what male of today would not have a supply of duct tape? All could prove to be valuable in a disaster.

Miscellaneous extras: One complete change of clothing for each person; emergency ponchos; a pair of boots each person; $50 cash minimum, in ones, five’s, and tens; duplicate credit cards (of course if there’s no power, they won’t do you any good); photo copies of Ids; spare checks (again, if the banks aren’t open, they’re just scratch paper); playing cards and spare keys to everything.

There was at one time a suggestion of having a portable generator, but because the potential danger from one not being installed and functioning properly, you might want to pass. They are also considerably expensive.

If you have concerns about personal sanitation when you don’t have water in your home, just remember what the bears do.

Are you planning for something ugly and unforeseen? Has your family ever gone through a disaster? What were some of the lessons you learned?

( Photo by Marcin Wichary )
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