I’ve been through five major and assorted minor disasters in the four plus decades I’ve been on this planet. Some of them I was too young to understand, but always there was a sense that a plan had been developd to deal with them. In fact, as I got older, I helped come up with the plan.
There isn’t a spot on Earth that doesn’t have the threat of disaster hanging over it. Earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards and other events are considered natural disasters, but you can see from past events that we humans are quite capable of adding our own touch to the equation. Planning, therefore, is of paramount importance.
The first thing you should do is find out what sort of event is likely in your area. If you live on a mountaintop, flooding might not be a concern, but landslides could be. Once you’ve assessed the threat(s), then you can begin planning.
This plan can be divided into a series of questions. In that format, you will probably be able to figure out what you need to know and to do.
1) What should I do during the disaster? The responce needed for a forest fire is vastly different than that of an earthquake. Find out what is required, and map it out in your mind. Having a route to safety in the face of a fire could help you avoid panic as you leave. Knowing where to “duck, cover and hold” in each room you are in is also wise. You never know when an earthquake will strike.
2) What do I need to survive in the wake of the disaster? Will you be on your own for a while afterwards? Then you’ll need food, water, clothing, etc. If there are likely to be shelters, you may only need clothing and any medications you take. Don’t forget to calculate how much you will need for each member of your household, including pets.
3) How can I prepare my home? There are often things you can do before a disaster that will help you and your home weather it better. Strapping heavy furniture to a wall can help prevent injuries in a quake, and having good brush clearance may help prevent your home from catching on fire during brush fire season.
4) How can I prepare my family? Explain to the children what could happen and let them help you make the plan. Give everyone a job. This will help prevent panic, especially when dealing with children. As an example, my job after a big quake is to shut off the water and my husband’s is the gas. When he went out to the garage after the Northridge Quake, the flex lines of the water heater had sheared and it was spewing water out to rival Old Faithful. It was quite a relief when I got the water off.
5) How do we contact each other? After Northridge, we could not make local calls. However, we had an out of state contact in my parents. They then called family members here to let them know we were all right. You’ll also want to check with your local schools. Most schools will not allow children to leave the premises until a parent or other listed person comes and physically checks them out. If you’re name is not on that list, the child won’t be allowed to leave with you.
A note about phones: If you have one of those nice, cordless phones, don’t expect it to work after a disaster. Power will likely be out, and these phones require electricity to operate. The older, corded ones should work. Your cell phone may also be out of service. Even if all of the towers are up and running, everyone will be grabbing their phone and trying to call. That’s happened here after a relatively minor event.
Disaster preparedness doesn’t mean you think something will happen tomorrow. All it means is that you are taking sensible precautions. Set it up, then forget about it, if you must, until you need to put it into operation.