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A Matter of Time: Natural Disaster Prep 101

Content provided in part by SafeHome.org

Happy National Preparedness Week! While not exactly a cause for balloons and streamers, it is important to remember to get ready in case one of the (pretty much inevitable) natural disasters come our way.

Earthquakes can happen anywhere at any time, and much of Canada and the United States have a moderate to high risk of these quakes.

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While modern science still hasn’t created a sure way of predicting earthquakes, there are ways to prepare for these situations at home – which determine your chances of surviving or saving your prized possessions. SafeHome.org has developed an emergency prep guide to help you better plan for home disasters. Here are a few tips to follow when it comes to earthquakes:

>> Be ready to protect yourself:

  • Ensure that wall decor is mounted correctly to prevent it from falling and injuring people
  • Keep heavy items away from beds and couches.
  • Check the light fixtures are secure
  • Keep your emergency supplies kit somewhere easily accessible
  • Determine safe areas of the home to drop, cover, and hold onto (drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy item of furniture, and hold onto it)
  • Do practice drills with your family to make sure everyone is aware of what to do

>> Earthquake safety continues after the earth stops shaking You may have to contend with fallen power lines, weakened structures, and much more. You can access our full guide here to know more about how to further protect yourself: https://www.safehome.org/resources/emergency-prep-guide/

And then there are wildfires – in fact, today (May 4th, 2022) the British Columbia emergency service is testing an alert similar to those of an Amber Alert. Everyone’s phone in the region will blast out a ‘Wildfire Alert’. As climates change and forests dry out, the risk of rapidly spreading wildfires is a real worry for lots of people.

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Flooding

Some areas are prone to frequent flooding. Even a flash flood, which occurs in less than six hours, can lead to devastation. Plan ahead with these steps.

  • Be prepared to evacuate at any moment, and have your emergency kit on hand, ready to go.
  • Stay out of floodwaters. Keep your kids out of them, too. If a flowing stream of water goes above your ankles, opt for a different route.
  • Head toward higher ground if there’s a flash flood warning in your neighbourhood. Stay there until it’s safe to return. Flood warnings are issued when flooding is about to occur or is already. A flood watch means floods are possible and to be prepared.
  • Stay alert at all times, but especially at night when it’s harder to notice floods.
  • Keep in mind that standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover damages resulting from flooding. You may be able to add flood insurance to your policy, and the National Flood Insurance Program offers coverage options.
  • Stay informed by listening to the radio and watching TV news for flood warnings. The National Weather Service offers wireless emergency alerts for a variety of disasters, including flooding. No signup is necessary.

Has a flood already happened in your neighbourhood? The following tips will help you get through the disaster as smoothly as possible:

  • Keep your children and pets away from dangerous areas with floodwater.
  • Observe your surroundings to ensure there aren’t wild animals such as poisonous snakes that could pose a danger. Snakes occasionally come into your home with floods.
  • Enter your home only after officials report it is safe to do so.
  • Contact your fire department if you smell gas or hear hissing noises.
  • Wear proper protective gear to avoid injuries while cleaning up.
  • Maneuver your home carefully to make sure you don’t injure yourself in collapsed or damaged areas.
  • Exercise caution with food and drinking water. If anything has come into contact with floodwater, assume the worst and discard the item. Better safe than sorry.

Heatwaves:

Summer is coming.

Extreme heat is the most deadly weather-related hazard. The CDC notes that more than 600 people in the United States die every year of heat-related causes. Even when death doesn’t occur, excessively high temperatures cause discomfort and may result in fainting and illness.

These high temperatures are not getting any better, either. Temperature records were set in 2018, 2019, and 2020, disrupting human health, agriculture, and other essential components of life. Fortunately, a bit of preparation goes a long way. To get started, consider these tips:

  • Check the weather forecast frequently.
  • Make sure your home’s AC units are working if you have them.
  • Switch fans on to ensure they work. If they don’t, purchase new ones before the next heatwave hits.
  • Gather at least a few changes of appropriate and comfortable clothing. Bright, loose, and airy are best.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible, and keep your doors closed.
  • Wear sunscreen and reapply it regularly if you must go outdoors.
  • Head to a friend’s, the library, mall, or theatre if your house does not have air conditioning. Check with your municipality or the Red Cross for cooling center locations.
  • Keep children and pets hydrated and in the shade.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.
  • Keep windows and shades closed during the day so cool air stays inside. Open the windows at night if it’s cool enough.

Be Prepared For the Worst:

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Sources and Resources:

  • SafeHome.org – resources and guides for how to stay safe during an emergency
  • Red Cross Create an emergency plan in three steps with free templates. Incorporate scenarios such as what to do if family members get separated and if you must evacuate your home.
  • Red Cross, Common Natural Disasters Across the U.S. See which types of disasters are more common in your region. For example, the West is at a higher risk of wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Meanwhile, the Mid-Atlantic region is predisposed to winter storms and hurricanes. No matter where you live, prepare for floods, extreme heat, power outages, thunderstorms, and other types of disasters.
  • Ready.gov Double-check that your emergency supplies kit is complete.
  • MedicineNet Don’t have air conditioning? Avoid heat exhaustion with box fans, buckets of water, and other tips.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Here is a primer on the interplay between heat and older adults. Learn why seniors are more vulnerable to heat illness and what caregivers can do.
  • U.S. Fire Administration Go to this site for anything fire-related, including fire prevention printouts. Read about research USFA is funding to reduce the price tag of retrofitting homes with sprinkler systems. Read about how flooding can be a major obstacle to post-wildfire recovery and how to develop a community wildfire protection plan.
  • National Safety Council This excellent resource on home fires includes details on extinguisher use.
  • Ready for Wildfire Power outages are common with wildfires. Cal Fire created this toolkit to help people dealing with both scenarios.
  • Earthquake Country Alliance This link breaks down the seven steps to earthquake safety.
  • Aichi This Japanese-focused resource includes guidelines if you’re driving, on the train, or near the shore when a quake strikes.

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