Thursday, January 29, 2015

Winter Storms - Be prepared

In Thurston County, we aren’t strangers to winter storms. Days of heavy rainfall, power outages, and strong winds are all too familiar to many of us. But many of us need reminders for how to prepare and how to respond in these situations. So let’s review the basics of winter storms.

Make a plan. Having a plan that your household is familiar with allows for you to feel more in control of the situation, to remain calm, and to think more clearly. Plan for the three Ps – People, Pets, and Property. This Family Communication Plan from FEMA can help you organize phone numbers to call in case of emergency. Many cell phones have a special contact list for emergency contacts. This can be a helpful tool to have your emergency contacts readily available, but keep in mind that cell phone batteries die and a hard copy doesn’t need batteries. When planning for people, think about any special medical needs your family has and make a plan to cover them. Get to know your neighbors so that you can share resources and help each other in an emergency.
Planning for your pets is important too. Watch this short video by FEMA. Plan escape routes and household meeting spots. If your home is taller than ground level, plan to use an escape ladder. Make sure everyone in your household understands the escape routes and how to use associated equipment. Or better yet, hold practice drills!
Plan for your property. First things first, learn how to safely shut off natural gas, water, and electricity here. Do a walkthrough of your property to identify areas of potential hazard in a storm. Look for trees that have branches that could fall on structures and keep them well-pruned. If you cannot access the branches safely, hire a professional. Look for one that is licensed, bonded, and insured. Be familiar with locations of gas, water, and electricity lines on your property and where hazardous materials are stored.
You can’t predict where you will be when an emergency occurs. Have a plan for different locations.

Build a kit. A disaster kit should have enough supplies for everyone for at least three days.
  • Here are the basics of what a kit should include:
  • Water – one gallon per person for at least three days.
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio with extra batteries.
  • Flashlights, headlamps, and extra batteries.
  • First aid kit – include any necessary prescription medication.
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Dust masks to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Local maps.
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.
  • Pet food.
  • Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Extra clothing.
  • Copies of important family documents (identification cards, insurance and bank account records) in waterproof container.
  • Hand-wipes, alcohol based hand sanitizer, paper towels.
  • Games, puzzles, books. 

Be cautious. In severe weather, be cautious of the steps you take in the situation. Be aware of your surroundings – above you, around you, and below you. Avoid standing water, wires and power lines, and large trees that could have limbs ready to fall. Be aware of hazardous materials that may have spilled or had their containers broken in the storm. To reduce the risk of hazardous exposure during storms, take unused and unwanted household hazardous products to HazoHouse at your earliest convenience. When you need to use a hazardous product for something, only purchase the amount you need. This will help minimize the amount of hazardous materials you have stored at home. When returning home after an evacuation be sure to follow these steps to safety.

Being prepared can reduce stress and anxiety when an emergency arises. Preparing for emergencies can help you make the most of a bad situation. When the next big storm comes our way, you will be glad you prepared for it!

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