Emergency Preparedness Is Every Family’s Responsibility
Dr. Paula Calabrese reflects on the tragic events of the past week, and urges families to get a kit, make a plan, and be informed about natural disasters and emergencies to ensure personal safety and well-being
The trio of tragic events this past week including the flash flood, the earthquake and Hurricane Irene has left us with a new appreciation of our family and friends.
They have also raised our common awareness of the importance and value of preparing ourselves to the greatest extent possible to cope with these often unforeseen disasters. While we don’t think it’s possible to be fully prepared to face such horrific events, we know it’s important to have some basic plan to deal with the natural disasters that may disrupt our way of life.
So what are some actions for families to take so that parents and kids can feel a little more capable of being in control of uncontrollable situations? ~ Barb and Nick C.
All of us were saddened by last week’s events and our thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered unspeakable losses. These tragic events are a stark reminder that we sometimes need to think about and prepare for worst case scenarios.
How many of us have thought about or told others the number of times that they traveled on Washington Boulevard and from there to Allegheny River Boulevard? Driving there countless times, none of us would have ever predicted the dire circumstances that would have unfolded.
However, now that we are forewarned, it’s important to take whatever actions we can to prepare ourselves and our youngsters on what to do in emergency situations.Take the time now to plan for dealing with unexpected tragic events.
The American Red Cross offers important guidelines if a fire erupts at home:
- Identify two ways to escape from every room in the home.
- Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
- Select a safe location away from the home where your family can meet after escaping.
- Consider purchasing and storing escape ladders for rooms above ground level and make sure to learn how to use them.
- 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.
- Before escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is warm, use your second escape route.
- If smoke, heat or flames block both of your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Place a rolled towel underneath the door. Signal for help by waving a brightly colored cloth or shining a flashlight at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call the fire department and let them know your exact location inside the home.
- Once you've escaped, stay out.
FLOOD AT HOME
- Planning for a flood is an important step in emergency preparedness. For people that live in flood zones, being prepared can mean the difference between life and death. Being prepared also reduces stress and anxiety that come with disaster situations like floods. Those who prepare for a flood ahead of time also reduce the impact of the disaster on both their homes and their lives.
- Learn whether or not the home is located in a flood zone.
- Plan an evacuation system for the family.
- Know the numbers for emergency contacts, like the police, fire department and ambulance.
- Gather food, clothes, toiletries and emergency supplies if a flood warning or watch has been given for the area.
- Share important information with the authorities on family members who are elderly or have any disabilities.
FLASH FLOOD WHILE DRIVING
Floods can occur anywhere, with floodwaters rising gradually or flash floods striking suddenly. Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States—most flood fatalities happen because people try to drive through deadly waters rather than avoid them. Water's powerful force can easily overtake vehicles caught in a flood.
- If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
- Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water and roads covered by water are prone to collapse. Attempting to drive through water also may stall your engine, with the potential to cause irreparable damage if you try to restart the engine. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.
- Follow these tips to stay safe in your car during a flood:
- Pay attention to barricades. Don't ignore them by driving past them.
- Do not drive through standing water on roads or in parking lots.
- Take extra precautions if you're forced to drive through water.
- If no alternate route exists and you have no other reasonable alternative but to drive through standing water:
- Do your best to estimate the depth of the water. If other cars are driving through, take note of how deep the water is.
- If you have driven through water up to the wheel rims or higher, test your brakes on a clear patch of road at low speed. If they are wet and not stopping the vehicle as they should, dry them by pressing gently on the brake pedal with your left foot while maintaining speed with your right foot.
- If you can't restart your vehicle and you become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon it for higher ground. Try to open the door or roll down the window to get out of the vehicle. If you are unable to get out safely, call 911 or get the attention of a passerby or someone standing on higher ground so that they may call for help.
- Consider purchasing a life hammer to break the car window in case of entrapment.
HURRICANE OR SEVERE STORM
A hurricane evacuation plan is important for anyone who lives in an area that may be hit by a hurricane. Most areas that are required to evacuate are along the coast. It is important to have a plan in place so you do not spend unnecessary time worrying or panicking. A plan will help you get your family and pets to safety quickly and easily.
- Prepare an evacuation or 72-hour kit for each member of your family.
- Map out your evacuation route.
- Select a place to stay choose several different cities you can evacuate to, taking into consideration the numbers of friends, family, or hotels available where you can stay in the area.
- Determine what you need to prepare your home from a hurricane.
- Review the plan with family members and let them know what will happen in the event of an evacuation.
"It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark." ~ Howard Ruff
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers important tips on
planning for disastrous events: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/readiness.asp
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) provides various checklists, kits and reminders to help families prepare for natural disasters: http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/basic_preparedness.shtm
Learn what to do before, during and after an earthquake: http://www.consrv.ca.gov/index/Earthquakes/Page/qh_earthquakes_what.aspx
View videos to learn how to escape your car during a flash
Download PDF of emergency planning documents for your own
Visit the Ready PA website for detailed local information: http://www.readypa.org/
See related stories on Plum-Oakmont Patch: Mother, Two Daughters from Plum Drown During Flash Flooding on Friday; Remembering the Local Victims of the Flash Flooding; Oakmont Woman Identified as Last Flood Victim; Plum Community Mourns the Loss of Mother, Daughters on Facebook; Lessons Learned From Friday's Flash-Flood Tragedy; Memorial at Center Elementary Grows; Funeral Arrangements Set for Mary Saflin of Oakmont; Plum-Oakmont Communities Coping After a Tragedy; PatchCast: Flood Tragedy, New Stores & Mylan Classic Announcement; Services Held for Oakmont Flood Victim; Funeral Services for Flash Flood Victims Stresses Their Faith, Legacies; Local Authorities Look to Prevent Future Flooding.