Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Preparing for Severe Weather Disasters

So yesterday afternoon and evening felt like we were living in Tornado Alley. There were at least 8 separate sightings of tornadoes to the North, South, East and West of us. Thank goodness my family was protected from any harm--if you knew my fear of tornadoes and recurrent nightmares I've had since childhood you would understand I truly, truly, truly am grateful! I did not know how seriously close to harm's way we were, however, until last night while watching the news. One tornado warning was about 10 miles away from us--and yeah it was 10 miles away but it was also 10 miles away!! Again, I am seriously afraid of tornadoes.

Some pics from neighboring towns. Note: I would not be caught DEAD taking pictures like this tornado and the rotating cell above! No way, no how, uh-uh!

My fear began when I was about 10 years old living outside of Gonzales, TX. My stepfather pointed out a low-hanging cloud and commented that it could form into a tornado. Ever since then, I've had recurring dreams about tornadoes. The story of the dreams are different, but it always involves the same people and the same stretch of road along which I grew up. When I was in college, a tornado wiped out a small town and then proceeded to follow along I-35 towards my apartment in San Marcos, TX. My roommates and I had a sliding glass door for a front door and I just about freaked from the color of the clouds outside. I paced back & forth from the bathroom to the front door the whole time. The tornado never made it to San Marcos, so my paranoia was completely unnecessary.

But my paranoia certainly was not unfounded. An emergency can occur when you least expect it and it doesn't have to be a weather-related. I have friends who lost their home when a fire started in the engine of their car that happened to be parked, and turned off, in their garage. Benjamin Franklin once said, "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail." So it's important to be prepared for any emergency situation.

Do you have a home emergency response plan to protect your family from emergencies? What would you do if basic services—water, gas, electricity or telephones—were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. The best way to make you and your family safer is to be prepared before disaster strikes.

  • Make a Plan—After a major disaster, it is unlikely that emergency response services will be able to immediately respond to everyone’s needs, so it’s important to be prepared to take care of yourself and your family. Plan to be on your own for at least the first 72 hours.
  • Designate an out-of-area contact person. Try to select someone that is far enough away to not be affected by the same emergency.
  • Duplicate important documents and keep copies off-site, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust. Documents may include: passport, drivers license, social security card, wills, deeds, financial statements, insurance information, marriage certificate, birth certificates, and prescriptions.
  • Inventory valuables, in writing and with photographs or video. Keep copies of this information off-site with your other important documents.
  • Get a Kit—A component of your disaster kit is your 72-hour kit (also known as a Go-Bag). Put the following items together in a backpack or another easy-to-carry container in case you must evacuate quickly. Prepare one Go-Bag for each family member and make sure each has an I.D. tag.

Map, flashlight, battery-operated radio & batteries

Emergency cash in small denominations and quarters

Sturdy shoes, a change of clothes, and a warm hat

Water and non-perishable food, enough for 72 hours

Photos of family members and pets for re-identification

List of emergency point-of-contact phone

List of allergies to any drug (especially antibiotics) or

Copy of health insurance and identification cards

Extra prescription eye glasses, hearing aid or other vital
personal items, prescription

Medications & first aid supplies

Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and toilet

Extra keys to your house and vehicle

Any special-needs items for children, seniors or people with
disabilities. Don’t forget to make a Go-Bag for your pets.

Check your kit every 6 months and replace expired items.
  • Be Informed: Get Info—listen to the radio, television, etc. for updates; Know Your Region—learn what disasters can occur in your area; Action Steps—If an emergency occurs, stay calm; Check the scene for safety and injuries. Call for 9-1-1 for help if someone is unconscious or not breathing.
  • Hannah & Abs over at Safely Gathered In, a blog designed to help you build your food storage and preparing for emergencies, have really great tips and checklists for your 72-hour kits. Right now they are working on building up car kits--click here to view this week's purchases.

    I hope you never find yourself in an emergency situation like my area faced yesterday. But if you start preparing now, you will be taking important steps to help ensure you and your family's safety.

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