Family Emergency Preparedness
So far, in our Emergency Preparedness series, we have learned about the naming of Hurricanes, Hurricane Shutters, preparing your family and business emergency plan, and how to get prepared on a budget. This edition, we will be focusing on what to include in your Emergency Supply Kit, what to do BEFORE an approaching storm, and how to keep your pets safe in a disaster.
Before the Storm
Before the storm, it is important to build an emergency supply kit and develop your emergency plan. Please see our blog from June for more information on your written plan, and see the next section for information about your Emergency Supply Kit. But what else can you do to prepare yourself, your family, your home and/or business, and your pets for a disaster?
Learn how to shut off utilities:
1) Contact your local gas company in advance to determine what your home requires, and the exact procedure for shutting off the gas. It might even be a good idea to post instructions somewhere near the meter. If at any point, though, you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, FEMA advises that you open a window and get everyone out of the house. Contact your gas company immediately.
2) Locating the main shutoff valve for your water supply in advance of a disaster is important. If you have trouble, contact a local plumber or your area water utility for assistance. Once you’ve identified the main water shutoff valve, make sure everyone in the household knows where it is, and how to turn it off. To prevent any possible confusion, consider labeling the water valve with a colored identification tab. SERVPRO can also provide you with shutoff valve tags.
3) Electrical sparks can ignite leaking natural gas, resulting in an explosion, says FEMA. Which is why, following a natural disaster, the electricity may need to be shut off immediately. If your home has a basement, the electrical circuit box is likely located there, but that’s not always the case. Be sure that everyone in your home knows where the circuit box is, well in advance of an emergency. (Tips provided by Allstate)
Some other steps you can take as the storm approaches:
- Unplug any electronic equipment.
- Unplug any electronic equipment.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- If you are outdoors, get inside a building, home or hard top vehicle (not a convertible).
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors.
- Follow SERVPRO of Burlington/Mt Holly on Twitter and Facebook for additional tips.
For information on how to prepare for specific types of disasters, visit our friends' website: Red Paw Emergency Relief Team Emergency Preparedness.
Emergency Supply Kit
There are many lists out there of what you could or should put in your emergency kit, or go bag. You can even purchase pre-packed kits for the quick solution. But you will find you have most of the basic items in your home already, and it will just take a few hours to put it altogether. The items we suggest as necessary for every kit are:
- Water (one gallon per person per day; this includes pets!)
- Food (non-perishable 3-day supply)
- Manual can opener
- Battery operated radio, preferably a NOAA Weather Radio
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust masks or bandana
- Plastic sheeting, garbage bags, and duct tape
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Hygiene items
- Important documents: copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account information
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Prescription medication for people and pets
- For pets: Food; leash, harness or carrier; records of vaccinations; non-tippable food and water containers, a picture of your pet, and a favorite toy of your pet's.
For specific examples, please visit The Weather Channel.
Not everyone has them, but those that do know that your pets are just as important as your other family members, and should not be forgotten about in case of an emergency. After Hurricane Katrina, it became obvious that many people who do not heed evacuation orders are responding to the fact that they don't know what to do with their pets. As a result, many shelters are now pet-friendly. Just like with everything else, a little planning can help keep your pets safe in the time of a disaster.
Often, warnings are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet. Know which hotels and motels along your evacuation route will accept you and your pets in an emergency. Call ahead for reservations if you know you may need to evacuate. Ask if no-pet policies could be waived in an emergency. Talk to friends and family members about taking your pets, but make sure your pet is comfortable with that person and that person is comfortable with your pet. If you are not home and cannot get home following a disaster, make sure you have pre-arranged with someone in your neighborhood to check on your animals.
Ensure that all pets are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Consider microchipping your animals. Bring pets inside so you won't have to search for them if you need to leave quickly. NEVER leave your pets behind! There is simply no reason to anymore, unless you do not heed evacuation orders and they come to rescue you by boat--then, and only then, is it difficult to bring your pet along. ALWAYS evacuate when told to do so and bring ALL family members with you.
If you must evacuate, there are some additional travel tips that Progressive Insurance recommends:
- Prepare a doggie bag with food and water for travel. Depending on where you live, evacuation routes can be congested with traffic and you may be in the car much longer than you intended.
- Bring your pet's favorite toys, and a doggie first aid kit as well. Pets can experience anxiety just like the human members of your family.
- Secure your pet in your vehicle within a travel crate or with a harness.
- Never leave your pet unsupervised in the car.
- Make sure your pet is covered on your car insurance policy. Progressive is the first major car insurance company to provide Pet Injury Coverage, at no additional charge, to cover your pet's vet bills in the event of an accident.
Next month, I will provide you with information on what the different categories of hurricanes mean to you, what to do during a storm, and we will review your power outage checklist. In September, we will consider some expert tips on how to manage your emotional health after a disaster, and ways to help your community or other communities effected by severe weather. As always, follow us on social media for additional information on preparedness, and sign up for our monthly newsletter with quizzes and contests based on this blog!