“I never thought it would happen to me.” This was the sentiment heard again and again as first responders and volunteers rescued victims of Hurricane Harvey by boat and air. Within weeks hurricanes Irma and Maria bore down on thousands more, forcing them to flee or hunker down.
The definition of disaster is a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage. Today’s technology enables warnings to be broadcast for many weather-related disasters, but not all disasters are that predictable. Even more reason to be prepared.
September is National Preparedness Month. In general, our society is good at preparing for things. We prepare for weddings, vacations, back to school, having babies, and Christmas. But when it comes to what ifs, we’d often rather live in the “it’s not going to happen to me” mode.
With our years of drought, Californians tend to think more of potential fire and earthquake emergencies. Since 9/11, we’re also more aware of potential man-made disasters. These could shut down services over a broad spectrum.
If you’re ready to pull your head out of the sand for a moment, here are some Timely Tips to help you be more fire and emergency prepared.
TIMELY TIPS - to be prepared
While some areas are at greater risk, no home is fire immune. According to the National Fire Protection Association 2017 Fact Sheet, almost all U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm, but three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or none that worked. Ensure that each room/hall has a dual sensor smoke and fire alarm. Consider adding home fire sprinklers which have decreased the fire death rate per 1,000 reported home fires by about 80%.
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires with frying foods as the major culprit. To my knowledge no one has ever been burned preparing a salad, and it’s better for your body too—just sayin’. If you’ve got to have your fries, don’t leave the stove unattended or, let McDonald’s do the cooking for you. In case of a cooking oil fire, cover with a metal lid or cookie sheet to eliminate its oxygen source and turn off the heat. Never attempt to stop a grease or oil fire with water-- that will fuel it. Make sure you have one or more up-to-date fire extinguishers and that everyone knows where they are and how to use them. Purchase an ABC fire extinguisher. It’s effective on fires that result from a variety of causes.
Create a fire escape plan which includes how to exit the home and where to meet outside. Do a practice run with your children so they’re familiar with what the alarm sounds like and how to check doors, open windows, and crawl through smoke. For more helpful information on Fire Prevention and Safety visit www.ready.gov/home-fires.
An emergency situation often means not having access to important and essential items. Scan your valuable documents and records and store them digitally in the cloud (Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, IDrive), or on a flash or external hard drive stored off-site. This will ensure that you can access them even if you’re unable to retrieve them at home. Store hard copies in a waterproof and fireproof safe or bank deposit box.
According to www.ready.gov, these are the basic supplies recommended for your emergency kit:
- Water – one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- Flashlight and batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust masks to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with charger and a backup battery
Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) is one of the many organizations reaching out to victims of the natural disasters that have struck our world in recent weeks. If you're looking for a practical and meaningful way to support those in need, visit mds.mennonite.net. You'll find information about donating and volunteering and first-hand stories of homes and lives being rebuilt as people join hands to help.
It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. --Howard Ruff