If a hurricane hit your home today would have an evacuation plan? If you awoke in the middle of the night to the earth trembling and your home shaking violently- would you know what to do? Green skies are often the first warning of a tornado coming – where should you go? Dangerous chemicals were let in to the air following a train derailment near your home – would you know what to do and where to get credible information for either evacuation or sheltering in place?
It has been my privilege to work with disaster specialists throughout the United States. They work tirelessly on all of our behalf.
Therefore, in the interest of public safety I will be posting as series of articles about how to PREPARE for potential disasters AND also offer resources for you to learn more.
To start I would like to discuss two very REAL threats to our personal and property safety- earthquakes and tornadoes.
You may think that earthquakes are only on the west coast of the United States or in remote mountain regions of Asia. But, that simply is false. Earthquakes happen in almost every state in the US and throughout the world, from the islands of Japan to the mountains of China. In fact, earthquakes can occur anytime, anywhere. Just ask the people of Washington DC who experienced a good size earthquake of a magnitude of 5.8 in 2011 (The epicenter was in Virginia).
Click here to find your area and see if you are in a location of where more than one million registered earthquakes occurred this year. (Approximately 13,000 were a 4.0 magnitude or higher). States with the most earthquakes? Alaska and California have the most (no surprise) but you may not have thought of Utah as a top earthquake location?
So how can you prepare for an earthquake?
What to do during an earthquake? We use to think that standing in a doorway was the best idea. NOPE. What about running outside? Not the “A” answer, either. According to the United States Geological Service (USGS) the best idea is to DROP, ROLL UNDER something STURDY and HOLD ON! (View demo video here)
This new safety information is so important that an effort known as the SHAKE OUT will be conducted this coming Fall. What is SHAKE OUT? Simply it is a designated date and time where as many US and Canadian citizens participate in a mock “earthquake drill”. The SHAKE OUT drill will be on October 17th at 10:17 in the morning. (Interesting piece of trivia – October 17th is the anniversary date of the Oakland earthquake of 1989) To register your family or business for the drill or learn more click here.
Also relevant and related to earthquake safety is to learn about tsunamis. A tsunami is a wall of water that is created following an earthquake, meteor or other disruption to the ocean. A devastating tsunami hit Japan in 2011 and resulted in mass casualty and loss of property. (Read about recovery efforts here )
What to do if there is a tsunami?
Many coastal areas in the United States now have tsunami warning systems.
However, the most important thing to know about a tsunami is to prepare in advance as where you can that is safe, elevated and within fifteen minutes of your home. This packet of information was very helpful to understand tsunamis and be prepared: Tsunami Preparedness by NOAA
Tornadoes are a real and present threat to life and property. Like an earthquake, tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time. We only need to read the headlines of recent events to see how a tornado touching down for a few minutes can cause profound heartbreak. Moore, Oklahoma now joins the ranks of other towns, such as Joplin, Missouri, Granbury, Texas, as a place where giant tornadoes have pummeled through communities, schools and farmland.
How to prepare for a tornado?
What are considered the “best practices” if you know that you are in an area experiencing a tornado watch or warning? First, recognize the “signs” that a tornado is coming.
- GREEN SKIES
- DARKENING SKIES
- LOUD NOISE, described by some like a “freight train”
- WARNING SIRENS or ALERTS RECEIVED
What should you do if you know a tornado is a true threat?
Take shelter immediately! Go to a basement, storm cellar, interior room or closet. Stay away from windows. Try to shield yourself from potential flying debris by having something over you. Be sure to have a cell phone (if possible), flashlight and battery operated radio with you. Here is more information about planning and safety from the CDC
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR FAMILY PETS
Again, let planning be your friend. The Humane Society published these guidelines for pet owners.
You also can read more from the SPCA by clicking on the photo above or this link.
What if your family member has special considerations, such as uses a wheelchair, has Autism or lives with Alzheimer’s?
There are many websites and videos (open and/or closed captioned for those with hearing loss) that can be of great assistance and a wealth of information . There are many sites to review, but these are some of my favorites.
What information can I share with my family that is “child friendly”
I really liked this website (in addition to the child resources from the sites mentioned above)
In the next post we will discuss safety and preparation for Hurricane Season. Please feel free to share YOUR disaster preparation safety information below. Thank you
Stay safe everyone!
Louise Satter is a Psychologist who created the SIGN LANGUAGE FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS Series – ASL, ENGLISH and SPANISH. Read more about how to connect with Louise for speaking engagements, including the DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR SPECIAL POPULATIONS PROGRAM (including sign language) and other programs related to safety and the well-being of children and adults with exceptional needs.