March 16, 10:57 AM click here to comment > 2
Making emergency plans for you and your family
The devastation caused by recent earthquakes in New Zealand and in Japan remind us of the need to be prepared for emergencies here in Seattle. While we have not seen any health risk here from the nuclear event in Japan, we know that the Pacific Northwest region faces several threats, particularly from earthquakes, that we need to take seriously. That means Seattle families and households need to be prepared for a disaster.
Your planning should emphasize three main priorities: making plans for you and your family to stay safe, including talking with co-workers and neighbors; making sure your home is safe, especially in the event of an earthquake; and ensuring you have enough supplies on hand to survive a few days after an emergency. While most people think of emergency planning only in terms of obtaining supplies, it’s more important to have a plan in place for dealing with a disaster.
The first step in getting prepared is for you and your family to have a talk about what you will do in the event of a disaster. What will you do if a disaster strikes in the middle of the weekday and everyone is split up (at school, work, errands, etc.)? Decide where you will meet up, and stick to that plan, especially if phone and internet services aren’t working. It relieves the anxiety and uncertainty you’ll feel if an emergency happens when you’re separated from your family.
How will you stay in touch with loved ones? It wasn’t very long ago that the only way to stay connected was to call someone on the phone. But here in 2011, we have more options. In order to keep phone lines clear for first responders, we strongly urge you to use text messages to keep in touch with loved ones, if you have that capability on your phone. If you don’t regularly use text messaging now, take this opportunity to learn how to use it on your phone – make it part of your personal preparedness planning.
It also makes sense to identify an out-of-area contact – someone who you will contact after an emergency who can serve as the relay point for the rest of your extended family and friends around the country.
Planning also involves preparing your home for an emergency. Locate safe spots in your home to take shelter during an earthquake. Most injuries sustained during an earthquake are from falling objects, so make sure that tall furniture, particularly bookcases, are bolted to the walls and that loose objects are secure. Arrange your furniture so that you and your family will have a clear path to an exit if necessary.
You should also talk with your neighbors and co-workers about what to do in the event of an emergency. Share tips and best practices, as well as make plans for how you can help each other out. In many low-income and immigrant communities, sharing information and resources is not something that has to be taught – it’s done every day. Many communities already have meeting places where they gather and feel safe. There are a lot of Seattleites who don’t have those connections, but we’ll need them in an emergency to make sure everyone gets the care and resources they need.
Good emergency planning takes into account not just the event itself (an earthquake, a tsunami, or a severe storm) but also its aftermath. As we’ve seen in recent disasters around the world, it might take time to bring help and relief supplies to you. We urge you to plan to survive on your own for several days following a disaster. Keep in mind that electricity may be out and water supplies may not be usable, so you need to keep water on hand as well as foods that can be prepared and eaten safely without electricity. A good rule of thumb is to have one gallon of water per person per day, for up to three days. I have five people in my family, so I would need fifteen gallons of water stored at home in case of emergency.
The Seattle Office of Emergency Management has a good list of what to include in your Family Disaster Supplies Kit, which includes suggestions on first aid, tools, clothing and bedding, and other important items.
If you can’t spend a lot of money on supplies, you can still be prepared. Many 99-cent stores carry a wide variety of preparedness items for a very low cost, including emergency blankets, light sticks, gloves, hand warmers, compact first aid kits, and other supplies. You can also use what you have at home. A zip-top bag will turn an ordinary flashlight into a waterproof flashlight (and can do the same for a portable battery-operated radio), protect important documents, photos and prevent other items from getting wet. Keep these in an easily accessible location – you don’t want to have to hunt around for important items or documents in the middle of an emergency.
One of the most useful items is a garbage bag. It can be a blood barrier, provide shelter, be worn under clothes to keep you warm, worn on the outside as rain gear and even become the bathroom in the event you don’t have running water or access to a toilet.
The City of Seattle has resources to help you plan. The Office of Emergency Management’s website at http://www.seattle.gov/emergency/ has a lot of useful information and is a good place to start.
The Office of Emergency Management runs the Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare (SNAP) program, which helps families and neighborhoods make good plans. The next SNAP class will be held at the Rainier Beach Library at 9125 Rainier Avenue South on Thursday evening, March 24, from 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm. You can find a calendar of more upcoming classes on the training and events page.
The disasters that are happening around the world are a stark reminder that we need to be prepared for emergencies that can happen to us at any time. Please use these resources to help your family and your community be ready for the day disaster strikes Seattle.
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn