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Preparedness


Being Prepared can be the difference between life and death. Your life is important …. Help us help you survive in an emergency!! According to FEMA, keeping yourself and your family safe can be accomplished by staying informed, having a plan, and building a kit.

1. Be Informed

It is important to know what hazards in your community you should prepare for. These hazards can be either natural, such as severe weather, or man-made, such as a hazardous materials incident. Take time to discuss these hazards with your family, including how can prepare for them and how you will respond if faced with one.

2. Create an Emergency Plan

Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance what you will do if a disaster happens and you are separated. You should discuss how you will contact one another, how you will get back together, where you will meet, and what you will do in different situations. Discussing what you will do ahead of time will help reduce fear and anxiety if a disaster happens. Practicing your plan is just as important as the plan.

Here are some tips in mind when creating emergency plan: 

    • Create a list of addresses and phones numbers for the places where your family spends the most time along with family members’ cell phone numbers and work numbers. Each family member should have a copy of the list and a copy should be placed in your disaster supply kit.

    • Identify meeting places in your neighborhood (in case of a house fire) and meeting places outside your neighborhood in case you have to evacuate.

    • Select an out-of-town relative or friend to be the “family contact person”. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long distance call than a local call. If separated, family members should call the “contact person” and tell him or her where they are. Everyone must know the contact’s name, address, and phone number.

    • Know what to do if authorities instruct you to shelter in place or evacuate.

    • Practice and maintain your plan by reviewing and updating it every six months or with any major changes in your family.

3. Have a Disaster Supply Kit

Putting together a disaster supply kit requires very little time or money but can be invaluable to you in the days following a disaster. Your kit should be in a sturdy, waterproof container and include the things your family will need (don’t forget the pets) for the first three days after a disaster. You don’t have to create your kit in one day; take time each week to place a few of the items you need in your kit.
Some suggested items for your kit include:

  • Specialty items for infants, the elderly, or anyone in your home with special needs

  • Water, 1 gallon per person per day

  • Nonperishable food and a manual can opener

  • Paper cups, plates, plastic utensils, and paper towels

  • Battery powered radio and/or NOAA weather radio with extra batteries

  • Flashlight with extra batteries

  • Hygiene products such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, etc.

  • Change of clothing for each family member including a pair of sturdy shoes

  • Prescription medications and extra glasses/contacts

  • Fire extinguisher

  • First aid kit

  • Tools, including a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Money, both cash and change

    • Credit/Debit machines may not be accessible

  • Copies of important family documents, insurance policies, etc. (Store in Water Proof Material)

  • Comfort items such as books, puzzles, and toys

FEMA has an In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/7877) This is FEMA’s most comprehensive source on individual, family, and community preparedness.  The focus of the FEMA content is on how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during, and after a disaster to protect people and their property. Also included is information on how to assemble a disaster supplies kit that contains the food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity for individuals and their families to survive following a disaster in the event they must rely on their own resources.  

Biological Hazards

The threat of a biological attack results from the intentional release of germs or other biological agents. These biological agents, often invisible to the naked eye, can be inhaled, ingested or transferred through the skin and the results could be sickness or death. Many biological agents, such as the smallpox virus, can also cause contagious diseases, which could be transferred from person to person.

Planning

By its very nature, a biological attack may not be predictable or even immediately detectable. Often a biological attack is only discovered from a pattern of illnesses, such as a wave of people seeking treatment for similar symptoms. In the most likely scenario, you will learn of a biological attack through media coverage.

As we saw with the Anthrax mailings, it often takes time to determine the exact nature of a biological attack. You should stay up-to-date on developments through radio, TV or over the Internet. Pay close attention to the following:

    • Is your community in a high risk area?

    • What are the signs and symptoms?

    • Are vaccines being distributed? If so, who is receiving them? And where are they available?

    • Where should you seek medical care?

Preparedness

If you are aware of an unusual release of an unknown substance, it is very important that you seek protection by removing yourself from the contaminated area. In order to avoid or reduce the likelihood of ingesting contaminated air, you should cover your mouth and nose with layers of damp fabric. Also, it is important that you always maintain good hygiene to avoid spreading germs.

For more information visit the National Institutes of Health

Response

After a declared biological emergency, it is very important that you keep a sharp watch for symptoms. However, symptoms from biological attack are often similar to those we experience with everyday illnesses, so do not automatically assume contamination. Seek prompt medical advice to determine your best method of response.

Links

Homeland Security - Disaster Results

 

Chemical Hazards

Chemical threat concerns are from the intentional or accidental release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment. In certain situations, systems are in place to provide warnings to high-risk areas, however situations may arise when a chemical disaster takes place without warning. These are some of the signs for a possible chemical threat:

  • Numerous people suffering watery eyes, twitching, choking, having trouble breathing or losing coordination.

  • Many sick or an unnatural amount of dead animals are also cause for suspicion.

The Environmental Protection Agency has more information on chemicals and hazardous substances.

Planning

In the event of any chemical disaster, it's important that you plan ahead. Stay current on possible threats in your community. And always keep emergency numbers on hand for medical emergencies related to chemical exposure. To learn more visit the EPA,

In certain situations, you may be required to shelter-in-place. If so, you should have a "Safe Area" designated in your home or business and it should be stocked with the following items:

    • Portable Room Air Filter

    • Duct tape

    • 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

Preparedness

Always be prepared to take action in the case of chemical exposure, following these important guidelines.

    • Strip immediately and wash thoroughly.

    • Look for a hose, fountain, or any source of water, and wash with soap if possible, being sure not to scrub the chemical into your skin.

    • Seek emergency medical attention.

Response

If you see signs of chemical attack or chemical exposure, react promptly following these general rules.

    • Quickly try to define the impacted area or where the chemical is coming from, if possible.

    • Take immediate action to get away.

    • If the chemical is inside a building where you are, get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area, if possible.

    • If the contaminated area surrounds your present location, take appropriate steps to "shelter-in-place."

    • If you are outside, quickly decide what is the fastest escape from the chemical threat. Quickly determine whether you can flee the contaminated area or if you should follow plans to shelter-in-place.

PREPAREDNESS RESOURCES

Homeland Security News - Shelter- in- Place
Ready.gov - Shelter

 

While fires cause thousands of deaths each year in our state, many of these casualties could be prevented through proper planning and appropriate action.

Planning

It is very important to develop a plan of what do in the case of fire. Keep in mind that most fire-related deaths are the result of asphyxiation, so you should view smoke and fumes with as much apprehension as the fire itself. Follow these plans when forming your Fire Safety Plan:

    • Keep cloth and paper away from appliances and power outlets.

    • Use caution when cooking with hot oil.

    • Keep a fire extinguisher handy in areas of greatest risk (most fires start in the kitchen).

    • Never leave lit candles unattended.

    • Ensure cigarettes are stubbed out and disposed of carefully.

    • Never smoke in bed.

    • Keep matches and lighters away from children.

    • Install fire alarms in your home or office. Test fire alarms on a regular basis to make sure they are functioning properly.

    • Make at least two escape routes from your home or office. Draw a floor plan and post it in regular view.

    • Buy escape ladders for upper level floors and keep near windows for times of emergency.

    • Locks and bars must be easily opened from the inside in order to provide escape routes.

    • Establish a safe place to meet after escaping a fire.

    • Conduct fire drills at least twice a year.

Preparedness

In addition to carrying out regular fire drills, it's important that you realize these general rules in regards to fire safety.

    • Stay low to the floor when evacuating in order to avoid asphyxiation.

    • Get out first, and then use a neighbor's phone to call the Fire Department.

    • Do not try to put out the fire yourself. Many injuries and deaths occur when people try and extinguish a fire after they have escaped.

Response

At the first signs of fire, do not hesitate even for a moment to evacuate everyone from the area. Keep in mind, fires often spread very quickly and can block potential exit routes in a matter of seconds. You and your family should follow your evacuation plan and do it immediately.

    • Exit the building immediately.

    • Crawl low if there is smoke.

    • Use a wet cloth, if possible, to cover your nose and mouth.

    • Use the back of your hand to feel the upper, lower, and middle parts of closed doors.

    • If the door is not hot, brace yourself against it and open slowly.

    • If the door is hot, do not open it. Look for another way out.

    • Do not use elevators.

    • If you catch fire, do not run. Stop-drop-and-roll to put out the fire.

    • If you are at home, go to a previously designated meeting place.

    • Account for your family members and carefully supervise small children.

    • Never go back into a burning building.

 

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States, however not all floods are alike. Some floods develop slowly, while others such as flash floods can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain. Additionally, floods can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states.

Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water carrying rocks, mud and other debris. Overland flooding, the most common type of flooding event typically occurs when waterways such as rivers or streams overflow their banks as a result of rainwater or a possible levee breach and cause flooding in surrounding areas. It can also occur when rainfall or snowmelt exceeds the capacity of underground pipes, or the capacity of streets and drains designed to carry flood water away from urban areas.

Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live or work, but especially if you are in low-lying areas, near water, behind a levee or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood. Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States and can happen anywhere.

Flood Basics

  • WHAT: Flooding is an overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. Flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, or it may cover a house to the rooftop.

  • WHEN: Flooding can occur during every season, but some areas of the country are at greater risk at certain times of the year. Coastal areas are at greater risk for flooding during hurricane season (i.e., June to November), while the Midwest is more at risk in the spring and during heavy summer rains. Ice jams occur in the spring in the Northeast and Northwest. Even the deserts of the Southwest are at risk during the late summer monsoon season.

  • WHERE: Flooding can happen in any U.S. state or territory. It is particularly important to be prepared for flooding if you live in a low-lying area near a body of water, such as near a river, stream, or culvert; along a coast; or downstream from a dam or levee.

Resources

Ready.gov - Floods
EPA - Natural Disasters

 

If you are one of the millions of pet owners across the country, your pet is an important member of the family household. Your pets’ wellbeing will be enhanced if you plan for their needs during the next emergency to strike your community. 

Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what's best for you is typically what's best for your animals.

If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.

Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can't care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand for your pet make it on its your own for at least three days, maybe longer.

Follow these three steps:

    1. Get a kit

    2. Make a plan

    3. Stay informed

Website Will Help Reunite People with Pets after Disaster

A link will be posted in the event of a disaster. The creators of EmergencyPetMatcher hope to make pet-and-owner reunifications during and after disasters easier.

Helpful links
Ready.gov - Caring for Animals
ASPCA - Disaster Preparedness
American Red Cross - Your Plan Should Include All Family Members
FEMA - Pet Preparedness: National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day
FEMA - Pet/Service Animal Preparedness
Long Shelf Life Emergency Pet Food Storage

Terrorism in the 21st Century

The ability of the United States Government to prevent, deter, defeat and respond effectively to terrorist attacks against the citizens of the U.S. whether they are domestic, on international waters or on foreign soil is one of the most challenging problems facing our times.

The U.S. regards all such terrorism acts as a potential threat to our national security as well as a criminal act. We will use all capabilities to prevent these acts and to apprehend and prosecute any individuals involved in such acts.

New techniques have been developed to assist the Federal Government along with State and local agencies to work together in a coordinated fashion to prevent and respond to terrorist acts.  It has established a guidance for assessing and monitoring potential threat, notifying proper federal, state and local agencies of the potential threat and sending the required advisory and technical resources to assist the Lead Federal Agency in coordination of a crisis and consequence management response.

We have had different types of security issues during the history of the United States.  However, with the development of modern technology, we have had to step up with new processes in order to protect the United States from the modern era of terrorists.

A Real Threat

Terrorists have the knowledge and the capability to strike anywhere in the world.  We have seen that when properly motivated they will do whatever they have to in order to achieve their goals.  A chronolgy of major terrorist attacks includes the World Trade Center bombing in 1993; the Tokyo Subway nerve agent attack in 1995; the Oklahoma City Bombing, in 1995; the September 11th attacks, in 2001; nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia in 2002; mass transit attacks in Madrid, Spain in 2004 and in London, England in 2005; and most recently the Mumbai, India 2008 attack.

All communities, especially those in free societies, are vulnerable to incidents involving terrorism. Nearly all communities contain high visibility targets. These targets usually are situated  with ease of access (soft targets). Many communities have manufacturing and chemical or biological testing facilities. Other examples of locations that may become targets for terrorist activity include:

    • Public assembly

    • Public buildings

    • Mass transit systems

    • Places of High Economic Impact

    • Telecommunications facilities

    • Places of historical or symbolic significance

Despite our security consciousness, terrorists intend to wreak havoc and it will be impossible to prevent all attacks.  An act of terrorism can occur anywhere, at any minute, when you lest expect it.  Citizen vigilence and awareness is critical. The efforts we make as alert citizens can greatly improve our chances of prevention.

What is terrorism?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force against a person or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives".  This definition includes three elements:

    • Terrorist activities are illegal and involve the use of force.

    • The actions intend to intimidate or coerce.

    • The actions are committed in support of political or social objectives.

In one sense, it makes no difference to a first responder, whether the incident is a terrorist act or not.  You will still respond and be among the first on the scene.  Naturally, the size and the kind of terrorist action are key factors.  But the important point to note is that an act of terrorism is essentially different from normal emergencies.  You will have to deal with a new set of circumstances far different from the structural fire, auto wreck or even hazardous materials incidents.

 

Winter storms can bring freezing rain, ice, snow, high winds, or a combination of these conditions. They can cause power outages that last for days, make roads and walkways very dangerous, and can affect community services. Planning and preparing can help you manage the impact of a winter storm and keep you and your family safe. A sustained power outage can have a significant impact on people who require electricity to power medical equipment, so make sure that you have a plan to take care of yourself and your family during an outage.

KNOW YOUR RISK

WHAT: A winter storm occurs when there is significant precipitation and the temperature is low enough that precipitation forms as sleet or snow, or when rain turns to ice. A winter storm can range from freezing rain and ice, to moderate snowfall over a few hours, to a blizzard that lasts for several days, or be a combination of several winter weather conditions. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures. WHEN: Winter storms can occur from early autumn to late spring depending on the region of the country.

WHERE: Winter storms and colder than normal temperatures can happen in every region of the country.

IMPACT: Extreme winter weather can immobilize an entire region. Ice and heavy snowfall can knock out heat, power, and communications services, sometimes for several days. Driving and walking can become extremely hazardous due to icy conditions, snowfall accumulation, low visibility, or extreme cold. People may need to stay at home or work without utilities or other services, until driving is safe. Pipes and water mains can break.

KNOW THE TERMS

Terms used to describe changing winter weather conditions and what actions to take. These terms can be used to determine the timeline and severity of an approaching storm.

ADVISORY

The NWS issues winter weather advisory when conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.

WATCH

The NWS issues a winter storm watch when severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area but the location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued 12 to 36 hours in advance of a potential severe storm. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, TV, or other news sources for more information. Monitor alerts, check your emergency supplies, and gather any items you may need if you lose power.

WARNING

The NWS issues a winter storm warning when 4 or more inches of snow or sleet are expected in the next 12 hours, or 6 or more inches in 24 hours, or ¼ inch or more of ice accumulation is expected. The NWS may also issue a warning if the storm is expected to hit during high-traffic times, like rush hour. Stay indoors, and keep warm and dry. Minimize driving.

Resources

Ready.gov - Build a Kit
American Red Cross - Winter Storm Preparedness