Updated: Jul 10, 2020
A natural disaster can be devastating, but 41% of Americans admit that they have not prepared for a natural disaster. This is despite the fact that each year disasters affect almost 25 million people in the U.S. alone. Since 2008 over 15 million people have been forced from there homes as a result of a disaster.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfire, earthquakes, and floods are the most common disasters that exist. Even worse, one of these catastrophic events can happen almost anywhere and anytime. Preparing yourself and your family should be a priority, therefore, we decided to pull up some basic emergency preparedness for beginners. Let’s get started!
Are You Ready for The Next Natural Disaster?
A natural disaster can happen quickly and without warning. Having a disaster plan in place can help reduce stress and fear. This plan should take into account the disasters that present the highest risk for your local area. You should communicate this plan with the members of your household and practice this plan. Practice is especially important for the children in your home, knowing that there are specific actions that can be taken during an emergency will go a long way to help keep them calm.
In addition to making an emergency plan, FEMA recommends that you keep a “72-Hour Kit” on hand. A 72-hour kit is a bag or backpack with the items you would need to survive for 3 days if your home was destroyed or you had to evacuate. This is a kit that should have enough food, water, first aid and hygiene items to support each member of your household for 3 days (72 hours). You can add items that are specific to you and your household’s needs like medication, personal documents, insurance cards, emergency contact info, and cash.
The following is a general guide for planning but you can adapt to your specific situation:
If you have to be evacuated, never ignore an official notice. When you are told you must evacuate the area, do so immediately. If you have time, take your supplies for emergencies, and if possible shut your gas valve and shut off the electricity. Always lock your house when you leave.
Move quickly but calmly and remember that your safety and that of your family are more important than your property and personal assets. Know where you are going before you leave and always follow the evacuation routes suggested.
Make sure that your family is not threatened by any danger. See if someone is hurt. If they are minor injuries, treat them with first aid. Keeping a good first aid kit and knowing how to apply effective first aid will increase a person's chances of staying alive until expert medical care is available.
Provide your cooperation to local authorities and rescue groups. Obey the health regulations implemented to protect you and your community against diseases and epidemics. Follow the safety rules and food and water preparation. Use the phone only for emergencies. Listen to a local station to get the latest information about the disaster.
Notify your family members that you are in a safe place. Local authorities can waste time in your search if you do not notify them that it is okay. It may be easier to make a phone call outside the disaster area. If possible, have a contact outside the state who can call relatives and friends in other parts of the country. This helps the telephone lines in the affected area not be obstructed.
People with some disability or older people who are generally self-sufficient under normal circumstances may need help in a disaster (we discuss this later). If you know a person, friends or neighbors who are in this situation, offer help whenever you can.
These people always need more time to make the preparations. They may have difficulty hearing or seeing and you can be their source of information so they feel safe. There are people with diseases that require medications that cannot be interrupted. You can help them, since some people may not be able to communicate this information in an emergency.
How to Help Elderly When a Disaster Occurs
Elderly are at greater risk to natural disasters because they tend to have more physical limitations and medical issues. Earthquakes are specifically dangerous to them, a strong earthquake can cause anything from restlessness and fear to uncontrollable panic. In the event of an earthquake, the elderly and those who cannot fend for themselves can be victims of panic. You can help prepare them for an emergency situation. Put these recommendations into practice:
-Falling objects are the greatest danger during an earthquake. Older people are less agile and may have trouble moving around, making it difficult for them to quickly duck under a solid piece of furniture. That's why you have to remove obstacles that make it difficult to find shelter under a table or desk. Make sure doors, aisles and exits are clear so you can get out quickly.
-Be sure to secure to the wall medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks, heavy appliances, bookcases, and other heavy objects that could cause injury or obstruct passage.
-Place safety latches on cabinets and drawers so they do not open during an earthquake.
Accommodate heavy items on the lowest shelves or drawers.
-Move beds away from windows and mirrors and do not have heavy objects nearby that may fall on someone.
-Keep a flashlight and a pair of shoes near or under the bed.
-Maintain enough supply of the medicine or special medical equipment that you may have. Include the name and phone number of doctor and pharmacy, as well as family and church members. Take this list with you if you have to leave your home.
-Keep another pair of glasses for elders, batteries for hearing aids, and medications you may need with emergency supplies. Be sure to replace the batteries once a year.
-Place security lights in the rooms. These lights plug into an outlet and turn on automatically when electricity is missing. They stay on for four to six hours and can be turned on and off manually.
-If you use a cane, walker or any other type of walking aids, keep it close to you. If possible, have similar equipment in other rooms of your home.
-Make sure you have a whistle always on hand to call for help in case of an emergency.
-After an emergency or earthquake, trusted friends, family or neighbors can check on each other and make sure that your residence is safe to remain in.
How to Secure Furniture and Appliances in Cases of Earthquakes
Look for ways to keep your furniture and appliances from breaking down and causing injury and perhaps serious damage to your home as a result of an earthquake.
There is a wide variety of products on the market to secure furniture and other objects to walls and reduce the damage caused by earthquakes. In particular, secure your home's water heater well; there are special clamps to achieve it. Also, make sure that the flexible gas supply hoses of the stove or clothes dryer have enough space to not break and adapt to the shock of an earthquake.
Look for ways to secure firm TVs, stereos, computers, lamps, and other devices so they do not fall or move during the shaking caused by an earthquake.
Give special attention to glassware and kitchenware; install safety latches on the doors of shelves, cabinets, cabinets, and cabinets where you keep fragile objects. Do the same with mirrors, pictures, and photographs hanging on walls, especially those that have a glass cover.
Secure bookshelves and other raised furniture so that they do not fall off the wall and collapse with the tremor.
If you have chandeliers and other types of hanging lamps, as well as ceiling fans, make sure they are securely fastened to the ceiling and that their chain or cable allows them to oscillate with the shaking but without detaching.
Home improvement stores will have a wide variety of products that can help protect your furniture and other valuable items in your home from the damage caused by earthquakes.
How to Declare If It Is Safe to Return Home
Once the authorities have allowed you to return home after a major disaster, it is imperative to do so in an orderly manner. We must also be prepared to live the following days without the resources and services that were available before the evacuation.
In some cases, you will need a special pass issued by local authorities to residents of affected communities.
Before leaving home, make sure you bring enough fuel in your vehicle. There could be snow on the roads in the mountains. Also, you should bring enough winter clothes and blankets. Do not forget to travel at a prudent speed and be alert to find obstacles on the road.
Do not expect to find gas stations and shops open in affected communities. Include food and drinking water for several days, for you and your family.
It is possible that in the initial stage of return there are too many vehicles on the route and the authorities will surely allow only the indispensable vehicles. Do not carry trailers, whether mobile homes, cargo, or to tow boats in the initial stage of return; wait for the situation in your community to normalize.
When entering your home, remember the following things:
-Check that the electrical circuit is in good condition.
-Examine the food and discard any that have been spoiled, either due to lack of refrigeration or that have been in contact with the smoke and toxic substances used to fight fires.
-When cleaning, use gloves and other personal protection items. Do not use substances to clean that are flammable; especially, do not use gasoline and other solvents that may catch fire; There could still be embers.
-Disinfect your refrigerator and other kitchen appliances with a solution of two tablespoons of chlorine per gallon of water. This helps eliminate dangerous bacteria. Read the instructions for use of cleaning products.
-The preparation plans have to be adjusted to the local conditions. It can be based on an adequate knowledge of the social, political and economic context. In addition, such plans must be flexible and dynamic and must be revised and readjusted periodically depending on the circumstances and new risks.
Disaster Recovery and the Emotional State of Children
Children can suffer emotional effects and behavioral changes after a natural disaster. If the adults around you cannot control their own feelings, they can suffer for months or even years and suffer more intensely.
If you are depressed or overwhelmed, this may also affect your children. Share your feelings with someone you trust, a member of the clergy or a mental health counselor.
Even young children can feel depressed and have temper tantrums, physical discomfort, sadness, excess activity, lack of interest and become withdrawn. They can express their feelings through games or talk about the disaster as if it were a person who persecutes them.
Children from 5 to 11 years old can present phobias, bad behavior such as lying, refusing to go to school or leaving their parents, sadness, anxiety and, in extreme cases, even wanting to take their own lives.
Teens can be withdrawn, tired, have difficulty sleeping or eating, abuse toxic substances, talk about doing dangerous things, suddenly change friendships, show hostility and want to commit suicide.
Any child may have difficulty sleeping and have nightmares or vivid memories after a traumatic disaster. They can easily get upset or hide their grief from the family. They may struggle in school and exhibit rudeness to others.
Parents may not realize the anxiety their children feel when they complain more about physical discomfort or stress. It is especially difficult for men to talk about the losses they suffered. Children are influenced by the behavior they see in their parents and other adults around them. This is why it is important to talk about what happened and reassure them.
The support of adults is essential for the emotional and physical well-being of the children. Share your grief about the disaster with them so they feel free to express their feelings. Let them know that it is normal for them to feel bad.
Talk about the losses and their plans to deal with them. Embrace and comfort your children. Discuss them and lean on their religious beliefs to give you hope and guidance.
If your kids have destructive acts towards property, hurting people or pets, frequent panic attacks or abuse of toxic substances, it requires the immediate intervention of a mental health professional. This is especially done to prevent suicide attempts that may occur.
Take Time to Prepare
Unfortunately, disasters are a reality that affects millions of Americans each year. You can’t predict them but you don’t have to be unprepared for them. Taking time to make a plan and keeping a 72-hour emergency kit will give you peace of mind and provide security for your family if you should ever need it.