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WYANDOTTE COUNTY KS RADIO AMATEUR CIVIL EMERGENCY SERVICE

Disaster Safety Tips

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All Disaster Safety Tips posted here are courtesy of the American Red Cross.

Chemical Emergencies

Chemicals Are an Important Part of Life
Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. Even though we often don't think about it, we use chemicals every day. Chemicals help keep our food fresh and our bodies clean. They help our plants grow and fuel our cars. And chemicals make it possible for us to live longer, healthier lives.

Under certain conditions, chemicals can be poisonous or have a harmful effect on your health. Some chemicals which are safe, and even helpful in small amounts, can be harmful in larger quantities or under certain conditions.

Chemical accidents do happen . . . at home and in the community, and the American Red Cross wants you to be prepared.

How You May Be Exposed to a Chemical
You may be exposed to a chemical in three ways:

  1. Breathing the chemical
  2. Swallowing contaminated food, water, or medication
  3. Touching the chemical, or coming into contact with clothing or things that have touched the chemical.

Remember, you may be exposed to chemicals even though you may not be able to see or smell anything unusual.

Chemical Accidents Can Be Prevented
Many people think of chemicals as only those substances used in manufacturing processes. But chemicals are found everywhere--in our kitchens, medicine cabinets, basements, and garages. In fact, most chemical accidents occur in our own homes. And they can be prevented.

Children and Poisoning
The most common home chemical emergencies involve small children eating medicines. Experts in the field of chemical manufacturing suggest taking hazardous materials out of sight could eliminate up to 75 percent of all poisoning of small children.

Keep all medicines, cosmetics, cleaning products, and other household chemicals out of sight and out of reach of children. If your child should eat or drink a non-food substance, find any containers immediately and take them to the phone. Call the Poison Control Center or Emergency Medical Services (EMS), or 9-1-1, if you have it in your area, or call the operator giving this information. Follow their instructions carefully. Often the first aid advice found on containers may not be appropriate. So, do not give anything by mouth until you have been advised by medical professionals.

Home Product Precautions
Other home accidents can result from trying to improve the way a product works by adding one substance to another, not following directions for use of a product, or by improper storage or disposal of a chemical.

The first precaution you can take is to avoid mixing common household chemical products. Some combinations of these products, such as ammonia and bleach, can create toxic gases.

A second important precaution is to always read the directions before using a new product. Some products should not be used in a small confined space to avoid inhaling dangerous vapors. Other products should not be used without gloves and eye protection to help prevent the chemical from touching your body. Read and follow the directions.

Another effective way to protect yourself and your family is to store chemical products properly. Non-food products should be stored tightly closed in their original containers so you can always identify the contents of each container and how to properly use the product.

Never smoke while using household chemicals. Don't use hair spray, cleaning solutions, paint products, or pesticides near the open flame of an appliance, pilot light, lighted candle, fireplace, wood burning stove, etc. Although you may not be able to see or smell them, vapor particles in the air could catch fire or explode.

If you should spill a chemical, clean it up immediately with some rags, being careful to protect your eyes and skin. Allow the fumes in the rags to evaporate outdoors in a safe place, then dispose of them by wrapping them in a newspaper and then placing them in a sealed plastic bag. Dispose of these materials with your trash. If you don't already have one, buy a fire extinguisher that is labeled for A, B, and C class fires and keep it handy.

Buy only as much of a chemical as you think you will use. If you have product left over, try to give it to someone who will use it. Take care to dispose of it properly. Improper disposal can result in harm to yourself or members of your family, accidentally contaminate our local water supply, or harm other people.

It is also important to dispose of products properly to preserve our environment and protect wildlife. Plus, some products can be recycled and further protect our environment.

Many household chemicals can be taken to your local household hazardous waste collection facility. Many facilities accept pesticides, fertilizers, household cleaners, oil-based paints, drain and pool cleaners, antifreeze, and brake fluid. If you have questions about how to dispose of a chemical, call the facility or the environmental or recycling agency to learn the proper method of disposal.

Family Disaster Plan
Making a
Family Disaster Plan will help each family member to stay calm in an emergency. But most important, planning ahead can save the lives of the people you love. The plan should include what task each family member is responsible for during an emergency, where supplies are kept, how family members will let one another know where they are going if they are evacuated, and where everyone will meet when the disaster is over. A brochure describing how to make a Family Disaster Plan is available from your local Red Cross chapter.

Family Disaster Supplies Kit
A Family Disaster Plan should include a
Family Disaster Supplies Kit.

Let each member of the family help put it together. The kit should include:

  • A first aid kit
  • A battery-operated radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
  • Bath size towels
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Wide tape
  • A county map
  • Bottled water (at least 3 gallons of water per person)
  • Non-perishable snack food
  • List of family medications, eyeglasses, hearing aids

Ask one person to be responsible for replacing water every three months and food every six months. Batteries should also be replaced on a regular basis.

Tape the call letters and frequency numbers of your emergency alert radio stations (EAS) on the radio and make sure everyone knows how to work the radio and put in fresh batteries. Also tape the channel number of the television emergency broadcast stations on your TV.

Every member of the family should know where the Family Disaster Supplies Kit is located--it should be stored within easy reach.

If you are a parent, don't assume that you will always be with your children in an emergency. Make sure they know how to protect themselves if you are not available to help.

At the beginning of the school year, take time to study the school or day care center emergency protective action plan, and discuss it with your children and their babysitters.

Major Chemical Emergencies
A major chemical emergency is an accident that releases a hazardous amount of a chemical into the environment. Accidents can happen underground, on railroad tracks or highways, and at manufacturing plants. These accidents sometimes result in a fire or explosion, but many times you cannot see or smell anything unusual.

How You May Be Notified of a Major Chemical Emergency
In the event of a major chemical emergency, you will be notified by the authorities. To get your attention, a siren could sound, you may be called by telephone, or emergency personnel may drive by and give instructions over a loudspeaker. Officials could even come to your door.

Listen carefully to radio or television emergency alert stations (EAS), and strictly follow instructions. Your life could depend on it.

You Will Be Told:

  • The type of health hazard
  • The area affected
  • How to protect yourself
  • Evacuation routes (if necessary)
  • Shelter locations
  • Type and location of medical facilities
  • And the phone numbers to call if you need extra help.

Do not call the telephone company, and do not call EMS, 9-1-1, or the operator for information. Dial these numbers only for a possible life-threatening emergency.

Shelter in Place
One of the basic instructions you may be given in a chemical emergency is to "shelter in place". This is a precaution aimed to keep you and your family safe while remaining in your home. If you are told to shelter in place, take your children and pets indoors immediately.

While gathering your family, you can provide a minimal amount of protection to your breathing by covering your mouth and nose with a damp cloth.

Close all windows in your home.

Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems

Close the fireplace damper

Go to an above-ground room (not the basement) with the fewest windows and doors.

Take your Family Disaster Supplies Kit with you.

Wet some towels and jam them in the crack under the doors.

Tape around doors, windows, exhaust fans or vents. Use the plastic garbage bags to cover windows, outlets, and heat registers.

If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains. To avoid injury, stay away from the windows.

Stay in the room and listen to your radio until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate.

Evacuation
Authorities may decide to evacuate an area for your protection. Again, it is important to stay calm, listen carefully and follow all instructions.

If you are told to evacuate, listen to your radio to make sure the evacuation order applies to you and to understand if you are to evacuate immediately or if you have time to pack some essentials. Do not use your telephone.

If you are told to evacuate immediately:

  • Take your Family Disaster Supplies Kit and medications
  • Close and lock your windows
  • Shut off all vents
  • Lock the door
  • Move quickly and calmly

If the authorities tell you to evacuate because of a possible chemical emergency, take your Family Disaster Supplies Kit

A change of clothing for each member of the family

Medication, eyeglasses, hearing aids or dentures, or things like canes and walkers

Personal items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, etc.

Items for your baby such as diapers, formula, or baby food

Books, puzzles or cards and games for entertainment.

Do not assume that a shelter will have everything you need. In most cases, the shelters will provide only emergency items such as meals, cots, and blankets.

You don't need to turn off your refrigerator or freezer, but you should turn off all other appliances and lights before locking your home as you leave.

Check on neighbors to make sure they have been notified, and offer help to those with disabilities or other special needs. If you need a ride, ask a neighbor. If no neighbor is available to help you, listen to the emergency broadcast station for further instructions.

Take only one car to the evacuation site.

Close your car windows and air vents and turn off the heater or air conditioner.

Don't take shortcuts because a shortcut may put you in the path of danger. For your safety, follow the exact route you are told to take.

Emergency Procedures for School Children
In an emergency, your children may be sheltered in place or evacuated from school. If protective actions are being taken at your children's school, do not go to the school. School personnel are trained to handle emergencies.

Do not call your child's school. You could tie up a phone line that is needed for emergency communications.

For further information, listen to local emergency radio and TV stations to learn when and where you can pick up your children.

Chemical Poisoning
There are several symptoms of chemical poisoning whether by swallowing, touching, or breathing:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Changes in skin color
  • Headache or blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Irritated eyes, skin, throat
  • Unusual behavior
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Stomach cramps or diarrhea

If you think you have been exposed to a toxic chemical, call the poison control center, EMS, or 9-1-1, or the operator, whichever applies to your area.

If you see or smell something that you think may be dangerous, or find someone who has been overcome with toxic vapors, your first job is to make sure that you don't become a victim. If you remain in a dangerous area and become injured or unconscious, you cannot help yourself or any victims.

Because chemical poisoning can be a life-threatening emergency:

  1. Send someone to call EMS, immediately.
  2. Tell the operator the location of the emergency and the phone number from where you are calling.
  3. Describe what has happened, how many people are involved, and what is being done to help.
  4. Stay on the phone until the operator tells you to hang up.

If you are trained in CPR or first aid, and feel confident that you are not in danger, check the person for life-threatening injuries. Administer appropriate treatment, and then deal with the chemical injuries.

If you have not recently taken a course in CPR or first aid, contact your local Red Cross for course information and schedules.

First Aid Treatment for Chemical Burns
A chemical burn can be minor or life threatening, but proper treatment can reduce the chance of infection and the damage caused by contact with the chemical.

Remove any affected clothing or jewelry from the injury. Use lots of cool running water to flush the chemical from the skin until emergency help arrives. The running water will dilute the chemical fast enough to prevent the injury from getting worse.

Use the same treatment for eye burns and remove any contact lenses. Be careful to flush the eye from the nose outward.

If no large amount of clean water is available, gently brush the chemical off the skin and away from the victim and you.

If the chemical is on the face, neck, or shoulders, ask the victim to close his or her eyes before brushing off the chemical.

Cover the wound very loosely with a dry, sterile or clean cloth so that the cloth will not stick to the wound. Do not put any medication on the wound. Seek medical attention immediately.

If you believe you have been contaminated with a chemical, call the Poison Control Center, EMS, 9-1-1, or the operator immediately. If medical help is not immediately available, remove your clothing starting from the top and working your way down to your socks. Take care not to touch your contaminated clothing to your bare skin. Place your clothing in a plastic bag so it cannot contaminate other people or things. Take a thorough shower to wash any chemical away. Re-dress in clean clothing and go for medical help at your first opportunity

Who Helps in a Chemical Emergency
There are many organizations that help the community in an emergency, such as police, fire, and sheriff departments, the American Red Cross, and government agencies. All these groups coordinate their activities through the local office of emergency management. In many areas there are local Hazardous Materials, or Haz-Mat Teams, who are trained to respond to chemical accidents. In the event of a chemical emergency, it is very important that you follow the instructions of these highly trained professionals. They know best how to protect you and your family

Important Points To Remember

  1. Chemicals are everywhere. They are an important part of life.
  2. The most common chemical accidents occur in our own homes and can be prevented.
  3. The best ways to avoid chemical accidents are to read and follow the directions for use, storage, and disposal of the product.
  4. Don't mix products, especially household cleaning products.
  5. Develop a Family Disaster Plan and pack a Family Disaster Supplies Kit.
  6. In the event of an emergency, follow the instructions of the authorities carefully. Listen to your emergency broadcast stations on radio and TV.
  7. Use your phone only in life-threatening emergencies, and then call the Poison Control Center, EMS, 9-1-1, or the operator immediately.
  8. If you are told to "shelter in place", go inside, close all windows and vents and turn off all fans, heating or cooling systems. Take family members and pets to a safe room, seal windows and doors, and listen to emergency broadcast stations for instructions.
  9. If you are told to evacuate immediately, take your Family Disaster Supplies Kit. Pack only the bare essentials, such as medications, and leave your home quickly. Follow the traffic route authorities recommend. Don't take short cuts on the way to the shelter.
  10. If you find someone who appears to have been injured from chemical exposure, make sure you are not in danger before administering first aid.
  11. And lastly, remember, the best way to protect yourself and your family is to be prepared.

The American Red Cross is an organization managed by volunteers from your community. Although it receives no money from the government, it is chartered by the U.S. Congress to provide disaster relief. All help given to people during a chemical, house fire, storm, or other emergency is free of charge and supported through charitable contributions and the United Way.

Emergency help may include shelter, meals, replacement of essential medication, and personal hygiene supplies. The Red Cross may also help reunite families by staying in touch with all evacuation sites.

The strength of the Red Cross is its core of volunteers who work in all levels of the organization. If you would like more information about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, either in Disaster Services, Health and Safety, Blood Services, or community programs, call your local Red Cross chapter.

Important telephone numbers emergency medical service: 9-1-1

If an accident involving hazardous materials occurs, you will be notified by the authorities as to what steps to take. You may hear a siren, be called by telephone, or emergency personnel may drive by and give instructions over a loudspeaker. Officials could even come to your door. If you hear a warning signal, you should go indoors and listen to a local Emergency Alert System (EAS) station for emergency instructions from county or state officials. Ask your local office of emergency management or Red Cross chapter which stations carry official messages in your community.

Severe Thunderstorm    
Before Lightning Strikes...

  • Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts.

When a Storm Approaches...

  • Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job!
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.

If Caught Outside...

  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately!

Protecting Yourself Outside...

  • Go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • Be a very small target! Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible.
  • Do not lie flat on the ground--this will make you a larger target!

After the Storm Passes...

  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.

If Someone is Struck by Lightning...

  • People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
  • Call for help. Get someone to dial 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number.
  • The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both where they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Check for burns in both places. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight.
  • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries. Learn first aid and CPR by taking a Red Cross first aid and CPR course. call your local Red Cross chapter for class schedules and fees.

Tornado    

Prepare a Home Tornado Plan

  • Pick a place where family members could gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Containing--

  • First aid kit and essential medications.
  • Canned food and can opener.
  • At least three gallons of water per person.
  • Protective clothing, bedding, or sleeping bags.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
  • Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn natural gas service back on.)

Stay Tuned for Storm Warnings

  • Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information.
  • Know what a tornado WATCH and WARNING means:
    • A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area.
    • A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area. Go to safety immediately.
  • Tornado WATCHES and WARNINGS are issued by county or parish.

When a Tornado WATCH Is Issued...

  • Listen to local radio and TV stations for further updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Many people say it sounds like a freight train.

When a Tornado WARNING Is Issued...

  • If you are inside, go to the safe place you picked to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. The tornado may be approaching your area.
  • If you are outside, hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
  • If you are in a car or mobile home, get out immediately and head for safety (as above).

After the Tornado Passes...

  • Watch out for fallen power lines and stay out of the damaged area.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home for damage.
  • Do not use candles at any time.

Wildfire

More and more people are making their homes in woodland settings in or near forests, rural areas, or remote mountain sites. There, homeowners enjoy the beauty of the environment but face the very real danger of wildfire.

Wildfires often begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and homes. Reduce your risk by preparing now before wildfire strikes. Meet with your family to decide what to do and where to go if wildfires threaten your area. Follow the steps listed below to protect your family, home, and property.

Practice Wildfire Safety

  • People start most wildfires...find out how you can promote and practice wildfire safety.
  • Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws. Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
  • Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home by car and by foot.
  • Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills, such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.

Protect Your Home

  • Regularly clean roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Code 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.)
  • Use 1/2-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof, and attic.
  • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket, and shovel.

Before Wildfire Threatens

  • Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind.
  • Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.
  • Use fire resistant or non-combustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling. Or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking, or trim with UL-approved fire-retardant chemicals.
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.

Create a 30- to 100-Foot Safety Zone Around Your Home.

  • Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry of fice for additional information.
  • Rake leaves, dead limbs, and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures and dispose of them properly.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from powerlines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill--use non-flammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace, and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for two days, then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags, and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only UL-approved woodburning devices.

Plan Your Water Needs

  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline-powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.

When Wildfire Threatens

  • If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
  • Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
  • Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.

If Advised to Evacuate, Do So Immediately

  • Wear protective clothing--sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Take your Disaster Supplies Kit.
  • Lock your home.
  • Tell someone when you left and where you are going.
  • Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.

If You're sure You Have Time, Take Steps to Protect Your Home

Inside:

  • Close windows, vents, doors, venetian blinds or non-combustible window coverings, and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
  • Shut off gas at the meter. Turn off pilot lights.
  • Open fireplace damper. Close fireplace screens.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding-glass doors.
  • Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.

Outside:

  • Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Place combustible patio furniture inside.
  • Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
  • Set up the portable gasoline-powered pump.
  • Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Wet the roof.
  • Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
  • Gather fire tools.

Emergency Supplies

When wildfire threatens, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, dufflebags, or trash containers.

Include:

  • A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.
  • One change of clothing and footwear per person and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
  • A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.
  • Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
  • An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks.
  • Sanitation supplies.
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses.
  • Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Assemble a smaller version of your kit to keep in the trunk of your car.

Create a Family Disaster Plan

Wildfire and other types of disasters--hurricane, flood, tornado, ealthquake, hazardous matenals spill, winter storm--can strike quickly and without warning. You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together. Meet with your family to create a disaster plan. To get started. . .

Contact your local Red Cross chapter

  • Find out about the hazards in your community.
  • Ask how you would be warned.
  • Find out how to prepare for each type of disaster.

Meet With Your Family

  • Discuss the types of disasters that could occur.
  • Explain how to prepare and respond to each type of disaster.
  • Discuss where to go and what to bring if advised to evacuate.
  • Practice what you have discussed.

Plan How Your Family Will Stay in Contact if Separated by Disaster

  • Pick two meeting places:
    1. A place a safe distance from your home in case of a home fire.
    2. A place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.
  • Choose an out-of-state friend as a "check-in contact" for everyone to call.

Complete These Steps

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.
  • Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at main switches.
  • Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.
  • Learn first aid and CPR. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information and training.

Fire    

Make Your Home Fire Safe

  • Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on each additional level of your home.
  • If people sleep with doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas, too.
  • Use the test button to check each smoke alarm once a month. When necessary, replace batteries immediately. Replace all batteries at least once a year.
  • Vacuum away cobwebs and dust from your smoke alarms monthly.
  • Smoke alarms become less sensitive over time. Replace your smoke alarms every ten years.
  • Consider having one or more working fire extinguishers in your home. Get training from the fire department in how to use them.
  • Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your home.

Plan Your Escape Routes

  • Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home.
  • Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floor. Learn how to use them and store them near the window.
  • Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping.
  • Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.

Escape Safely

  • Once you are out, stay out! Call the fire department from a neighbor's home.
  • If you see smoke or fire in your first escape route, use your second way out. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to your exit.
  • If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is warm, use your second way out.
  • If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Signal for help using a bright-colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are.

Flood and Flash Flood    

If you have been affected by a flood, see also:

Know What to Expect

  • Know your area's flood risk--if unsure, call your local Red Cross chapter, emergency management office, or planning and zoning department.
  • If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
  • Listen to local radio or TV stations for flood information.

Reduce Potential Flood Damage By--

  • Raising your furnace, water heater, and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded.
  • Consult with a professional for further information if this and other damage reduction measures can be taken.

Floods Can Take Several Hours to Days to Develop

  • A flood WATCH means a flood is possible in your area.
  • A flood WARNING means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

Flash Floods Can Take Only a Few Minutes to a Few Hours to Develop

  • A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in your area.
  • A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon.

Prepare a Family Disaster Plan

  • Check to see if you have insurance that covers flooding. If not, find out how to get flood insurance.
  • Keep insurance policies, documents, and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Containing--

  • First aid kit and essential medications.
  • Canned food and can opener.
  • At least three gallons of water per person
  • Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
  • Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn them back on.)
  • Identify where you could go if told to evacuate. Choose several places . . . a friend's home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.

When a Flood WATCH Is Issued . . .

  • Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
  • Fill your car's gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued.

When a Flood WARNING Is Issued . . .

  • Listen to local radio and TV stations for information and advice. If told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.

When a Flash Flood WATCH Is Issued . . .

  • Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice.

When a Flash Flood WARNING Is Issued . . .

  • Or if you think it has already started, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
  • Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades . . . they are there for your safety.
  • If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

Heat Waves

Know What These Terms Mean...

  • Heat wave: Prolonged period of excessive heat and humidity. The National Weather Service steps up its procedures to alert the public during these periods of excessive heat and humidity.
  • Heat index: A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees F.
  • Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
  • Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke.
  • Heat stroke: Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
  • Sunstroke: Another term for heat stroke.

If a Heat Wave Is Predicted or Happening...

  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine. Try to go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Remember, electric fans do not cool the air, but they do help sweat evaporate, which cools your body.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy.
  • Drink plenty of water regularly and often. Your body needs water to keep cool.
  • Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heat's effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which dehydrates the body.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
  • Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

Signals of Heat Emergencies...

  • Heat exhaustion: Cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
  • Heat stroke: Hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high-- as high as 105 degrees F. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry.

Treatment of Heat Emergencies...

  • Heat cramps: Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish fluids. Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse.
  • Heat exhaustion: Get the person out of the heat and into a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets. If the person is conscious, give cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Let the victim rest in a comfortable position, and watch carefully for changes in his or her condition.
  • Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. Help is needed fast. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Immerse victim in a cool bath, or wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body any way you can. If the victim refuses water or is vomiting or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink.

Terrorism—Preparing for the Unexpected

Shelter-in-Place in an Emergency

Devastating acts, such as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, have left many concerned about the possibility of future incidents in the United States and their potential impact. They have raised uncertainty about what might happen next, increasing stress levels. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected and reduce the stress that you may feel now and later should another emergency arise. Taking preparatory action can reassure you and your children that you can exert a measure of control even in the face of such events.

What You Can Do to Prepare

Finding out what can happen is the first step. Once you have determined the events possible and their potential in your community, it is important that you discuss them with your family or household. Develop a disaster plan together.

1. Create an emergency communications plan.
Choose an out-of-town contact your family or household will call or e-mail to check on each other should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that contact's, and each other's, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers (home, work, pager and cell). Leave these contact numbers at your children's schools, if you have children, and at your workplace. Your family should know that if telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try e-mail. Many people flood the telephone lines when emergencies happen but e-mail can sometimes get through when calls don't.

2. Establish a meeting place.
Having a predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be affected or the area evacuated. You may even want to make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include any pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.

3. Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
If you need to evacuate your home or are asked to "shelter in place," having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable. Prepare a disaster supplies kit in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or small plastic trash can. Include "special needs" items for any member of your household (infant formula or items for people with disabilities or older people), first aid supplies (including prescription medications), a change of clothing for each household member, a sleeping bag or bedroll for each, a battery powered radio or television and extra batteries, food, bottled water and tools. It is also a good idea to include some cash and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licenses) in your kit.

Copies of essential documents-like powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will-should also be kept in a safe location outside your home. A safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good choice.

For more complete instructions, ask your local Red Cross chapter for the brochure titled Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit (stock number A4463).

4. Check on the school emergency plan of any school-age children you may have.
You need to know if they will they keep children at school until a parent or designated adult can pick them up or send them home on their own. Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pickup. And, ask what type of authorization the school may require to release a child to someone you designate, if you are not able to pick up your child. During times of emergency the school telephones may be overwhelmed with calls.

For more information on putting together a disaster plan, request a copy of the brochure titled Your Family Disaster Plan (A4466) from your local American Red Cross chapter. You may also want to request a copy of Before Disaster Strikes . . . How to Make Sure You're Financially Prepared (A5075) for specific information on what you can do now to protect your assets.

If Disaster Strikes

  • Remain calm and be patient.
  • Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
  • Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.
  • If the disaster occurs near you, check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
  • If the disaster occurs near your home while you are there, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.
  • Confine or secure your pets.
  • Call your family contact—do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.

A Word on What Could Happen
As we learned from the events of September 11, 2001, the following things can happen after a terrorist attack:

  • There can be significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings and the infrastructure. So employers need up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have and on how to contact your designated beneficiaries.
  • Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event's criminal nature.
  • Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
  • Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
  • Clean-up may take many months.

Evacuation
If local authorities ask you to leave your home, they have a good reason to make this request, and you should heed the advice immediately. Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of local emergency officials and keep these simple tips in mind-

  1. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
  2. Take your disaster supplies kit.
  3. Take your pets with you; do not leave them behind. Because pets are not permitted in public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative's or friend's home, or find a "pet-friendly" hotel.
  4. Lock your home.
  5. Use travel routes specified by local authorities—don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  6. Stay away from downed power lines.

Listen to local authorities.
Your local authorities will provide you with the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. Staying tuned to local radio and television, and following their instructions is your safest choice.

If you're sure you have time:

  • Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
  • Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so. Leave natural gas service ON unless local officials advise you otherwise. You may need gas for heating and cooking, and only a professional can restore gas service in your home once it's been turned off. In a disaster situation it could take weeks for a professional to respond.

Shelter-in-place Fact Sheet (Fact Sheet PDF file)
If you are advised by local officials to "shelter in place," what they mean is for you to remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. Close and lock all windows and exterior doors. Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Close the fireplace damper. Get your disaster supplies kit, and make sure the radio is working. Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed. Using duct tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room. Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.

Additional Positive Steps You Can Take

Raw, unedited footage of terrorism events and people's reaction to those events can be very upsetting, especially to children. We do not recommend that children watch television news reports about such events, especially if the news reports show images over and over again about the same incident. Young children do not realize that it is repeated video footage, and think the event is happening again and again. Adults may also need to give themselves a break from watching disturbing footage. However, listening to local radio and television reports will provide you with the most accurate information from responsible governmental authorities on what's happening and what actions you will need to take. So you may want to make some arrangements to take turns listening to the news with other adult members of your household.

Another useful preparation includes learning some basic first aid. To enroll in a first aid and AED/CPR course, contact your local American Red Cross chapter. In an emergency situation, you need to tend to your own well-being first and then consider first aid for others immediately around you, including possibly assisting injured people to evacuate a building if necessary.

People who may have come into contact with a biological or chemical agent may need to go through a decontamination procedure and receive medical attention. Listen to the advice of local officials on the radio or television to determine what steps you will need to take to protect yourself and your family. As emergency services will likely be overwhelmed, only call 9-1-1 about life-threatening emergencies.

First Aid Primer
If you encounter someone who is injured, apply the emergency action steps: Check-Call-Care. Check the scene to make sure it is safe for you to approach. Then check the victim for unconsciousness and life-threatening conditions. Someone who has a life-threatening condition, such as not breathing or severe bleeding, requires immediate care by trained responders and may require treatment by medical professionals. Call out for help. There are some steps that you can take, however, to care for someone who is hurt, but whose injuries are not life threatening.

Control Bleeding

  • Cover the wound with a dressing, and press firmly against the wound (direct pressure).
  • Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart if you do not suspect that the victim has a broken bone.
  • Cover the dressing with a roller bandage.
  • If the bleeding does not stop:
    • Apply additional dressings and bandages.
    • Use a pressure point to squeeze the artery against the bone.
  • Provide care for shock.

Care for Shock

  • Keep the victim from getting chilled or overheated.
  • Elevate the legs about 12 inches (if broken bones are not suspected).
  • Do not give food or drink to the victim.

Tend Burns

  • Stop the burning by cooling the burn with large amounts of water.
  • Cover the burn with dry, clean dressings or cloth.

Care for Injuries to Muscles, Bones and Joints

  • Rest the injured part.
  • Apply ice or a cold pack to control swelling and reduce pain.
  • Avoid any movement or activity that causes pain.
  • If you must move the victim because the scene is becoming unsafe, try to immobilize the injured part to keep it from moving.

Be Aware of Biological/Radiological Exposure

  • Listen to local radio and television reports for the most accurate information from responsible governmental and medical authorities on what's happening and what actions you will need to take. The Web sites referenced at the end of this brochure can give you more information on how to protect yourself from exposure to biological or radiological hazards.

Reduce Any Care Risks
The risk of getting a disease while giving first aid is extremely rare. However, to reduce the risk even further:

  • Avoid direct contact with blood and other body fluids.
  • Use protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and breathing barriers.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water immediately after giving care.

It is important to be prepared for an emergency and to know how to give emergency care.

Winter Storm

Prepare a Winter Storm Plan

  • Have extra blankets on hand.
  • Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Containing--

  • First aid kit and essential medications.
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Canned food and can opener.
  • Bottled water (at least one gallon of water per person per day to last at least 3 days).
  • Extra warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat.
  • Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit for your car, too.
  • Have your car winterized before winter storm season.

Stay Tuned for Storm Warnings. . .

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information.

Know What Winter Storm WATCHES and WARNINGS Mean

  • A winter storm WATCH means a winter storm is possible in your area.
  • A winter storm WARNING means a winter storm is headed for your area.
  • A blizzard WARNING means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately!

When a Winter Storm WATCH is Issued...

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, and TV stations, or cable TV such as The Weather Channel for further updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel.

When a Winter Storm WARNING is Issued...

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin.
  • As the wind increases, heat is carried away from a person's body at an accelerated rated, driving down the body temperature.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks.
  • After the storm, if you shovel snow, be extremely careful. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion.
  • Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must...
    • Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk.
    • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
    • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

If You Do Get Stuck...

  • Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.

What to Do After a Winter Storm

  • Continue listening to local radio or television stations or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. Access may be limited to some parts of the community, or roads may be blocked.
  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
  • Avoid driving and other travel until conditions have improved. Roads may be blocked by snow or emergency vehicles.
  • Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.
  • Follow forecasts and be prepared when venturing outside. Major winter storms are often followed by even colder conditions.

A5055 Food and Water in an Emergency. Click here to download.