Emergencies and disasters can strike quickly and without warning. You may be forced to evacuate
your neighborhood or be confined to your home
. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, but cannot reach everyone right away. What would you do if basic services – water, gas, electricity, or telephones – were cut off?
You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance. The Hazards page introduced you to the threats in our community and some basic tips to prepare. The information on this page will cover steps that can make you better prepared for all hazards.
The first step in preparedness is to know what you are up against. The Hazards page on our website will introduce you to the threats in our county and some basic tips to protect your family, home and property.
In addition to understanding the potential disasters that can take place in our community, you should also be familiar with community plans that are in place for responding to and recovering from a disaster. If you have children, you should investigate policies and procedures their schools have in place should an emergency occur during school hours. Take time to learn about any emergency plans that may be in place at your office or workplace as well.
1. Meet with your family members.
Review the information you gathered about community hazards and plans. Explain the dangers to children and work with them as a team to prepare your family. Be sure to include caregivers in your meeting and planning efforts.
2. Decide where to meet.
You may become separated from your family members when an emergency occurs. Choose a place right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a house fire. Choose a second location outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.
3. Choose an “Out-of-Town” Contact.
After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long-distance call from a disaster area than to make a local call. Ask an out-of-town relative or friend to be your contact. Family members should call this person and tell them where they are following a disaster. Everyone must know the contact’s phone number.
4. Complete a Family Communications Plan.
Also include information for your out-of-town contact, meeting locations, emergency service numbers, etc.
Teach your children how to call the emergency phone numbers and when it is appropriate to do so.
Be sure each family member has a copy of your communication plan and post it near your telephone for use in an emergency.
- Include contact information for family members; work and school.
Sample forms for recording this information can be found at www.ready.gov or www.redcross.org/contactcard. These websites also provide blank wallet cards on which contact information can be recorded and carried in a wallet, purse, backpack, etc. for quick reference.
5. Escape Routes and Safe Places
In a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate on a moment’s notice. Be ready to get out fast. Be sure everyone in your family knows the best escape routes out of your home as well as where the safe places are in your home for each type of disaster.
- Use a blank sheet of paper to draw floor plans of your home. Show the location of doors, windows, stairways, large furniture, your disaster supplies kit, fire extinguisher, smoke alarms, collapsible ladders, first-aid kits, and utility shut-off points. Show important points outside such as garages, patios, stairways, elevators, driveways, and porches.
- Indicate at least two escape routes from each room. Mark a place outside of the home where household members should meet in case of fire. If you or someone in your household uses a wheelchair, make all exits from your home wheelchair accessible.
- Practice emergency evacuation drills at least twice a year, but also whenever you update your escape plan.
6. Conduct a Home Hazard Hunt
During a disaster, ordinary objects can cause injury or damage. Anything that can move, fall, break, or cause a fire is a home hazard. For example, a hot water heater or a bookshelf can fall. Identify areas you can make safer by securing items to the wall, moving heavy objects from upper shelves to lower shelves, keeping flammable items away from heat sources, etc. Household chemicals should also be identified and properly stored or disposed of.
7. Plan for those with disabilities or other special needs.
Keep support items in a designated place, so they can be found quickly. For those who have home-health caregivers, particularly for those who are bed-bound, it is essential to have an alternate plan if the home-health caregiver cannot make it to you. In advance, provide the power company with a list of all power-dependent life support equipment required by family members. Develop a contingency plan that includes an alternate power source for the equipment or relocating the person.
- For information regarding the Special Needs Registry for the state of Utah, visit SpecialNeedsUtah.org.
Additional planning ideas and checklists can be found at www.ready.gov, www.utahredcross.org, and www.fema.gov.
8. Plan for your pets.
Take your pets with you if you evacuate. However, be aware that pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in emergency public shelters for health reasons. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians, and “pet-friendly” hotels that could shelter your pets in an emergency.
9. Prepare an action checklist of items to do before a disaster
- Know how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity at the main switches or valves and share this information with your household. Keep any tools needed near gas and water shut-off valves.
- Turn off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged, you suspect a leak, or if local officials instruct you to do so. If the gas is turned off for any reason, only a qualified professional can turn it back on.
- Take a first aid and CPR/AED class.
- Be sure everyone knows how to use a fire extinguisher and where they are kept.
- Install smoke alarms on each level of your home, especially near the bedrooms. Individuals with sensory disabilities should consider installing smoke alarms that have strobe lights and vibrating pads. Follow local codes and manufacturer’s instructions about installation requirements. Also, consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home.
- Obtain adequate insurance coverage. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood or earthquake damage and may not provide full-coverage for other hazards.
- Inventory home possessions to help you claim reimbursement in case of loss or damage. Store this information in a safe deposit box or other secure (flood/fire safe) location to ensure the records survive a disaster.
- Include photographs or video of the interior and exterior of your home as well as cars, boats and recreational vehicles.
- Also, have photos of durable medical equipment and be sure to make a record of the make and model numbers for each item.
- Get professional appraisals of jewelry, collectibles, artwork or other items that may be difficult to evaluate.
Make copies of receipts and cancelled checks showing the cost for valuable items.
Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
Since you don’t know where you’ll be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for your home, workplace, and vehicles.
Your home kit should be the most comprehensive. The following are some basic supplies that your kit should include. These items will need to be customized to the ages of your children, your climate, and other individual needs and tastes. Keep the kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you need to leave your home quickly. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the kit is kept.
- Three (minimum) day supply of non-perishable food and a manual can opener.
- Three (minimum) day supply of water (One gallon per person per day)
- Portable, batter-powered radio or television and extra batteries
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit and manual
- Sanitation and hygiene items (hand sanitizer, moist towelettes, and toilet paper)
- Mess kit or plastic utensils and paper cups.
- Matches in waterproof container
- Extra clothing, rain gear, and sturdy shoes.
- Blankets or sleeping bags.
- Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils
- Photocopies of identification, credit cards, and important family documents
- Cash and coins
- Copies of important records (identification, insurance information, deeds, wills, marriage and birth certificates)
- Special needs items such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solution, and hearing aid batteries.
- Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers.
- Comfort items such as pictures of family members, games or a toy for children, etc.
- Tools, pet supplies, a map of the local area, and other items to meet your unique family needs.
- Food and water
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Kit should be in one container and ready to “grab and go” in case you are evacuated from your workplace.
- Food and water
- First aid supplies
- Jumper cables
- Seasonal supplies (blankets, poncho, etc.)
Maintain your Plan and Kit!
1. Quiz: Review your plan every six months and quiz your family about what to do. Make sure that contact information in your communications plan is current.
2. Drill: Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills on a regular basis with your family.
3. Restock: Check food supplies for expiration dates and discard or replace stored water and food every six months. Items for your children will need to be updated frequently as they grow older.
4. Test: Read the indicator on your fire extinguisher(s) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to recharge. Test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace alarms every 10 years.
Many opportunities exist to help your community prepare and respond to disasters. Visit our Community Assistance page or click here for information on how to receive training to help your family and your neighborhood in a disaster. Other volunteer agencies, such as the American Red Cross, church-sponsored groups, and others provide additional opportunities for you to serve.