Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How to Stay Safe During and After an Earthquake

While minor earthquakes occur deep beneath our feet every day, earthquakes we can feel are much less common. Most major earthquakes happen along the edge of oceanic and continental plates. In the United States, most earthquakes occur in Alaska, California and other western states, however it’s possible to experience an earthquake anywhere. Whether you live in an earthquake hotspot or you’re preparing for every disaster possible, we’ve come up with earthquake safety tips you should follow to remain out of harm’s way both during and after an earthquake.

Earthquake Preparedness

If you live in an area that expects earthquakes regularly, it can be a good idea to consult a professional to learn how to make your home sturdier. Bolting bookcases to wall studs, installing latches on cupboards and securing your water heater will not only save your property and personal belongings, but will also help ensure your personal safety. Think ahead of time about where you’ll go if shaking begins while you’re at home. It should be in a room where nothing is likely to fall on you. Additionally, make sure you know how to turn off both your gas and water main lines in case there is a leak.

Staying Safe During an Earthquake

If you find yourself at home when an earthquake begins, retreat to your safe room or drop down, take cover under a desk or table immediately and hold on until the shaking stops. Stay put and stay indoors until the shaking stops and it’s safe to leave. Make sure to keep away from windows and anything that could fall on you. If you are in a high-rise, don’t be surprised if fire alarms and sprinklers go off during the quake.

If you are outside when the earthquake starts, do your best to find a clear spot away from tall buildings, power lines and even trees. If you are driving, slow down safely, drive to a clear place and stay inside the car until it stops shaking. Remember: Aftershocks are always a real possibility and can even cause more damage than the original earthquake. Stay safe and sheltered until you’re positive no more shaking will occur.

Staying Safe After an Earthquake

In the case of a major earthquake, it is possible to get stuck and stranded inside your own home. You should prepare an earthquake prep kit with: non-perishable food, an emergency water supply (at least 1 gallon per person in your home), dust masks, goggles, a flashlight and a battery-operated radio (with extra batteries). If anything has collapsed, make sure to wear your mask and googles, as well as quality shoes to protect your feet from broken glass. Use your emergency radio to monitor the overall situation in your area and receive the latest updates and instructions. Stay away from damaged buildings as they may still collapse, and do not move injured people unless it’s absolutely necessary to get them to safety. Instead, check your phone for a signal and call or text for help as soon as possible.

While earthquakes can be scary, they are not nearly as dangerous as many other natural disasters. With the right preparation and safety steps taken before and during an earthquake, you and your family have a high change of surviving unharmed. Have your own earthquake survival tips? Share them with us in the comments below! The more we all know, the safer we all are.

Monday, December 14, 2015

El Niño Preparation

Every two to five years, El Niño – an irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes – occurs and causes unseasonable weather in many regions across North and South America. This year, the climate changes strike again, and the 2015 El Niño is expected to be among the strongest ever recorded.

The 2015 U.S. Winter Outlook predicts wetter-than-average conditions and exceptional storminess across the southern United States and southeastern parts on Alaska, and dry conditions in Hawaii and in areas near the Great Lakes. The current drought in California and throughout parts of the Southwest and the Plains is expected to improve, however the drought in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies will likely continue. While not all the effects of El Niño are negative, it’s important to be prepared for the stronger and longer storms that can accompany the changing climate conditions. Whether you’re expecting wet or dry conditions, hotter or cooler temperatures, there are steps you can take to prepare your family and your home for this year’s El Niño.

How to Prepare for El Niño

Fix Your Leaks & Clear Your Gutters – Those who are in areas expecting rain, make sure to check for and fix all known leaks. If you have an older roof, consider calling in a roofer to check troubled spots, especially if you’ve recently experienced a hot and dry summer, as dry heat can cause wood structures to shrink and expand, creating possible leak points. Additionally, make sure you clean and clear your gutters to prevent ice dams and avoid water damage to your home.

Be Prepared to Evacuate – El Niño storms can move fast, and sometimes the best course of action is to evacuate. If your car has not been inspected recently, make sure your headlights and windshield wipers work, your tires, brakes and brake pads are still in shape, and that your battery isn’t too old – most car batteries only last 5 to 7 years.

Prepare Easily Accessible Emergency Boxes – Your home, car and office should each have their own easily accessible emergency supply box. These boxes should (at least) include basic first aid supplies, an emergency food and water supply, a battery powered radio and extra batteries, and backups of any prescription and OTC medication you need regularly.

Plan Ahead for Droughts – If you’re in an area that’s expecting to receive dry conditions or above average temperatures, you should start practicing water conservations efforts today and learn how to recognize heat-related health emergencies like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Rain collection barrels are perfect for homes that are in areas that frequently experience droughts! Be prepared for shortages of certain foods, adhere to water bans and restrictions, and be mindful of burn bans, as wildfires can easily be started by accident during dry times.

Get the Right Gear – Ponchos make working in the rain bearable, bright neon jackets make working in the rain safer, and high quality brooms and shovels make the storm cleanup process easier. Keep up with the changing weather conditions in your area and purchase the weather supplies that make the most sense for your family and your area. If you expect snow, make sure you’re ready to clean up with a snow shovel. If you’re expecting rain for weeks, invest in a pair of rain boots and a rain jacket.

Prepared for El Niño before? Let us know your favorite storm preparation tips in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Top Items You Need to Prepare for Winter Storms

The time to prepare for winter storms — and all other emergencies, for that matter — is before disaster strikes. Stocking up on emergency supplies like food, water and first aid items, as well as supplies for communication and heating, helps ensure you’ll remain safe and as comfortable as possible during winter storms. Whether you usually only experience light snow a few times a year or you expect to be hit by heavy blizzards, we’ve come up with a list of the top items you need to prepare for winter storms.

Winter Storm Disaster Preparedness

When you live in areas that frequently experience blizzards, it’s important to know what different winter storm advisories mean. Winter Storm Outlook means storm conditions are possible within the next 2 to 5 days. Winter Weather Advisory means the weather is not life threatening, but it’s expected to cause significant inconveniences. A Winter Storm Watch means storm conditions are possible within 12 to 48 hours. A Winter Storm Warning should not be ignored: severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Anyone in the area of a winter storm warning should get to safety as soon as possible.

Blizzard Survival Kit

Food and Water: Ideally you should put together a winter survival kit for your home, office and car. The most basic supplies necessary include a 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day) and a 3-day supply of food. If you can, stock up on even more long-term, non-perishable food in case you’re stuck for more than 3 days. You should leave your taps slightly open so they continuously drip and don’t freeze. If your pipes freeze or break, you will need your emergency water. In extreme cases, snow can be melted for water – however, even boiling the water will not get rid of certain chemicals that are found in snow.

Heating Supplies: Next, you’ll need quality heating equipment and sufficient fuel. When the power goes out, you’ll be forced to rely on different heating methods. Wood or gas fireplaces and portable space heaters are both great options. Heat packs are easy to use and do well at keeping your hands warm, but they are not ideal for keeping you warm throughout the storms. Even though flashlights and candles are not good for heat, they are perfect for light sources, so be sure to stock up on them, too. Don’t forget the extra batteries, and remember to keep a close eye on your candles!

You should never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning devices that produce carbon monoxide inside. If you don’t already have them, it’s a good idea to install carbon monoxide alarms on each level of your home. If your CO alarm sound does sound, you need to move to an open door or window, or better yet go outside if you can, call for help and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.

First Aid Supplies: For easy preparation, you can buy pre-prepared home emergency kits, office emergency kits and even school emergency kits that include basic first aid supplies. If you want to prepare your own kit, make sure you stock up on essential items like bandages and gauze, disinfectant, antibiotic ointment, over-the-counter painkillers and any prescription medication you need regularly.

Communication Supplies: When the power goes out, the cell phone reception goes down and you’re stuck inside, it’s important to be able to keep up with what’s happening around you. A solar or battery powered radio is an ideal way to hear weather updates and keep up with the news.

Additional Items: A shovel is always helpful when the snow gets high, and rock salt is perfect for melting ice on walkways. If you have a baby or a pet, make sure you stock up on extra food and supplies for them. If you have older kids, make sure you have board games or some other forms of entertainment that don’t require power.

Have your own tips for preparing for winter storms? We’d love to hear them — share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Emergency Preparedness for the Elderly

No matter who you are, it’s important to be prepared for disasters. The likelihood of survival (and being comfortable while surviving) is much higher when you plan and prepare ahead of time. Some individuals, including many elderly, are more vulnerable than others and need to stock up on extra supplies and should take extra time to create an emergency plan with a personal support network. We understand that life gets busy however, and it’s easy to forget to make a plan, so we’ve come up with some essential emergency preparedness tips for seniors to help you get started.

Emergency Planning for the Elderly

Identify Your Greatest Risks – If you live in Kansas, there’s probably not much need to prepare for a hurricane. The key to efficiently preparing for an emergency is identifying the risks that are greatest in your region. The northeast United States is typically the most in danger from severe winter storms. The south and southeast are most susceptible to hurricanes, the West coast is most likely to experience earthquakes, and the Midwest is known as “Tornado Alley” for a good reason. No matter where you live, there is also always the potential for fires and a blackout.

Create a Support Network – While many seniors are in good health, there are others who have limitations. Whether you have hearing or visions problems, use a cane or a wheelchair or you have other disabilities, it’s vital you not be caught unprepared. Emergencies can strike without warning, so it’s important you have a network who can help and check up on you. Meet with friends, family and caregivers to discuss your limitations, exchange house keys and important information and make arrangements for who will check up on you, how and when. Make everyone know your plan and can use any lifesaving equipment or administer any medicine you may need, in case you can’t do it yourself.

It can also be a good idea to choose at least one out-of-town contact, in case everyone in your area is affected or you can’t make local calls.

Prepare an Emergency Kit – An emergency kit for seniors should not only include the basics like food, water and first aid supplies, but it should also be stocked up with any and all prescriptions, over-the-counter medication and equipment you may need. During an emergency, you may not be able to travel to the store or pharmacy, so it’s important you already have enough of everything you could need. You also will likely be unable to reach your doctor, so talk to them ahead of time about any concerns you have and what else you can do to prepare.

Beyond food, water and medical supplies, your emergency kit should also include a flashlight and extra batteries, pet supplies if you have a pet, and a solar or battery powered radio that you can use if the power is out. Familiarize yourself with your emergency kit and supplies before a disaster strikes, so if you need to find and use something quickly you already know how to do so.

Did we miss any essential emergency preparedness tips for seniors? Let us know how you can up with you plan in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What to Include in an Emergency Preparedness Kit for College Students

Headed off to college? Tests aren’t the only thing you’ll have to worry about. Whether you’re living in a dorm or an apartment, when you’re at college and off on your own for the first time, it’ s important to be prepared for emergencies like storms and power outages. Creating an emergency kit for school before you leave home is the best and easiest way to stay prepared. When it comes to creating an emergency preparedness kit for college students, there are certain items you should always keep in stock. We’ve compiled a list of essential college student emergency kit supplies, plus some emergency situation tips you can follow to stay safe.

The Essentials:

When you’re stuck and stranded, water is a must have. Try to keep at least a three-day supply of water in your home (one gallon per person per day), as well as an additional supply in your car when you’re traveling during bad weather. You should stock up on food that is high in nutrition, has a long shelf life and can be prepared and consumed without cooking. From emergency food bars to long-term supply kits, today there is a wide variety of both nutritional and tasty survival food available.

A First Aid Kit:

A first aid kit can come in handy during minor and major emergencies alike. Your kit should include basic items like ibuprofen, bandages, antibiotic cream and burn ointment, as well as any extra prescription medications you need. A first aid handbook can come in handy when you don’t have access to the Internet and need to quickly learn how to treat burns, eye injuries, concussions and even more.

Communication Supplies:

If your cell phone dies, will you be able to contact anyone you know? While it may seem pointless during your day-to-day life, it’s important that you keep a written address/phone directory for friends and family at home. During power outages and without cell phone reception, you may also find it impossible to keep up with the latest emergency updates. It’s vital you keep a battery powered radio at home so you can stay informed about your surrounding area. Don’t forget the flashlight and to stock up on extra batteries as well!

To protect your electronics (and school files) from being damaged during a power outage, you can purchase equipment that comes with built-in surge protection, or use a separate electrical surge suppressor. Remember not to turn on all your lights, appliances and electronics while the power is out, or you may overload the circuits when it’s restored.

Familiarizing yourself with your college’s emergency plans ensures that whether you’re at home or on campus, you know what to do during a natural or man-made disaster. Many colleges also allow students to sign up for emergency texts so you can instantly be alerted of danger and given instructions on what to do next.

Comfort Items:

While at home, you may have all the extra clothes, blankets and toiletries you need, remember to store some of these items (as well as a separate first aid kit) in your car so you can always be prepared. It’s also a good idea to keep cash on hand, in case you need to buy more supplies but can’t use debit or credit cards anywhere.

Have your own tips for student safety? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Friday, September 25, 2015

How You Can Help Your Neighbors in an Emergency

When an earthquake hits, when a wildfire starts or when tornadoes come whirling through your neighborhood, some people will be ready. Others will not. No matter where you live, there is potential for natural disasters or man-made emergencies to strike. While first responders are always on the scene as quickly as possible, often they won’t be able to reach everyone affected in a timely manner. When it comes to planning your family’s emergency routine, it’s beneficial to include your neighbors and make a plan to help each other if and when the time comes.

Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Tips

When neighbors help neighbors and communities come together, we can save more lives than ever before. The first step in learning how to help the community during an emergency is to get out there and meet your neighbors and others in the community. Find out if there’s already a neighborhood plan in place. If not, you should set a date for a first meeting to get everyone in your community together to establish a neighborhood plan.

It can be difficult to establish one emergency plan for an entire neighborhood. If you’re having trouble getting people together, you can meet with your block and form a plan with fewer people, or even make a plan for just your family and direct neighbors. When it comes to emergency planning, however, remember that the more people you meet and can rely on, the more help you’ll have during an emergency.

At your first meeting you should compile a neighborhood list with everyone’s contact information. It’s also important to discuss and note special skills (for instance, do you have any doctors in the area?), discover who will need the most help (children, elderly, disabled and even pets), and decide who will check on the special needs neighbors first.

Your community plan should include multiple evacuation routes and nearby meet up spots. In case you can’t evacuate, you should also discuss steps you can each take while waiting for help to arrive. Sharing shelter, transportation, emergency food and power generators can help save families money and ensure everyone has some place to go and something to eat. However, each and every home should have their own emergency kit with basic first aid supplies. It’s also important to keep solar or battery powered radios on hand so you can monitor the surrounding situation. When the power goes out or cell service goes down, two-way radios are perfect for neighborhood communication.

When everyone has agreed to an emergency plan – it’s ok if it takes several meetings – it can be a good idea to conduct a neighborhood drill and hold another meeting afterward where you discuss what worked and what didn’t. You can incentivize people to participate by turning it into a fun, social event with food and drinks.

Not only is creating an emergency neighborhood plan beneficial to the entire community, but it’s also a great way to get out and get to know your neighbors. Do you have an emergency neighborhood plan in place? Let us know your best neighborhood emergency preparedness tips in the comments below!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Prepare for a Workplace Emergency

Ever hear the old military adage about prior proper planning? It goes like this: “Prior proper planning prevents poor performance.” Although we don’t all have commanders at work, taking a page out of the military’s handbook is the best way to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations.

According to OSHA, a workplace emergency is an unexpected situation that affects your employees and customers, affects your operations or causes physical or environmental damage. This can include floods, fires, workplace violence or civil disturbances. The best way to safeguard against these situations is to develop an emergency action plan. OSHA requires some businesses to have emergency action plans by law, but not all. However, even if you’re not required to do so, it never hurts to prepare.

Below are some of the points OSHA says your emergency action plan should include (you can find the complete list of recommendations on pages 2 and 3 here):
  • An emergency policy and procedure;
  • Emergency escape procedures and route assignments (Do departments evacuate to a certain place? Do floors evacuate to a certain place?);
  • Names of people in charge of emergency procedures, both in and outside the company;
  • Instructions for employees who remain on the premises during an emergency to perform essential services such as working fire extinguishers and shutting down workplace equipment;
  • Outline of medical or rescue duties for any employee assigned to perform;
  • A way to alert employees that an emergency is occurring and a way for employees to report emergencies.
Sometimes a workplace emergency will require an evacuation of the people on the premises. Local disasters and events may mean authorities will order you to evacuate the building. In all other cases, it is crucial that you appoint a person in charge of deciding whether to evacuate the premises and establish a clear chain of command. A disorganized evacuation can have unfortunate consequences, such as personal injuries and property damage.

Evacuation procedures should also be included in your emergency action plan. Below are some useful evacuation elements that every plan should have:
  • Procedures for helping visitors, employees and people with disabilities off the premises;
  • A way to account for employees after an evacuation;
  • Conditions under which it may be better to stay in the building rather than evacuating (such as chemical contaminations);
  • Which, if any, employees will stay after the evacuation to carry out essential operations;
  • Respirators for employees.
All of these can and must be adapted to your particular building and situation. For instance, emergency and evacuation procedures might be slightly different for high-rise buildings as opposed to low-rise buildings, so it’s important to do your research.

Basically, leadership and planning are the main points you need to make sure emergency situations go as smoothly as they can and you can begin operating business as usual as soon as possible. The government has online tools in place to help you craft an emergency action plan if you never have before or if you want to review your current procedures.

Once you have your emergency action plan completed, share it with your employees and publish needed materials, such as escape routes, in common workplace areas.