Posts Tagged ‘evacuation’


Preparedness Checklist for 2018

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017
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Lists work. They’re easy to figure out, satisfying to check off. Here’s one to get us all going toward some new levels of preparedness for 2018.

Review or reminder?

For a few people, this will be review. But for most of us, at least one of these items will cause a grimace or even a slap of the forehead because we know we should already have dealt with it!

There are more ideas and resources below the chart. But take a quick first look.

Which item should be first on your list?

Preparedness Checklist for 2018More resources for items on the list.

  1. Homeowners’ insurance may not cover water damage to the stuff in your basement. Neither may flood insurance! If you rent, what about the items stored in your “cage” in the parking garage? You will never really know what’s covered until you pull out your policy and go over it with your insurance agent. Here’s an Advisory that will give you more questions to ask about any insurance:
    Flood Damage Not Covered By Insurance
  2. What was a good place to head for last year may have changed. Update your plans, particularly if you have children. Pick an assembly place nearby – like the big oak tree at the back of the lot – and another place further down the block or even across town. Can your family members FIND these places without the maps in their phones?
    Get Out Now — Family Evacuation Plan
  3. Every homemaker knows this, and knows how to do it. In a survival kit, just pull and replace everything! (You may discover that more and more canned items now are self-opening. Yay!) On the kitchen shelves, load at the back, eat from the front. Basta.
  4. I finally got far enough ahead on my blood pressure pills to have 10 days’ worth stored in my survival kit. But they’ve been there a while . . . And as we all know, over time pills lose their effectiveness, band aids lose their stick, bottles dry out, tubes ooze. Your first aid kit could actually do you harm if it’s not up to speed.
    First Aid Kit Failure
  5. Seems as though it would be easy to run outside in a fire, doesn’t it? But people are trapped and burned every day. Practice with your family! Make sure you know two exits from every room, how to get down from the second floor. What’s your agreed-upon signal for a home invasion threat? Every individual needs to know how to respond. If all your children know is to come screaming for you, you have NOT trained them properly.
    Escape from Burning House
  6. People around you could turn into rescuers – and even into friends. It can’t hurt to be open to meeting more of them. Besides, it’s just a neighborly thing to do. And if you have a neighborhood emergency response team, invite them to come and find out more.
    Build a neighborhood team
  7. Memorize important phone numbers. Assume phones won’t be available in a car wreck, a storm, or an earthquake. Memorizing is healthy brain activity, too!
  8. Computer companies compete to be your back-up service. But where do they PUT your files, and how to you access them if your computer has been destroyed? Have at least 3 back-up methods: onto your own computer, onto a separate physical hard drive stored off-site, and into the cloud. Test whatever procedure you have put into place. Just having a COPY of something doesn’t mean you can necessarily start right back up to work.
  9. Did you know that if one roommate applies for relief from FEMA, the other roommate may not be eligible? Do you know who would have to sign off for you to get an insurance payout on your house? We all tend to let legal questions linger . . . 2018 is the year to clean legal issues up for a number of reasons, not least of all to get them off your mind.
    Legal problems surface after flood
  10. Emergency preparedness isn’t supposed to be all long faces and determined expressions. It’s supposed to be positive!  What would be fun for you and your family? Learning to tie knots? Identify edible plants? Start a fire without matches? Operate a HAM radio? Take a course in basic self-defense? Do the CERT training? Every one of these skills will improve your knowledge, improve your confidence, and make you better prepared for any emergency!
    Tie the right knot!
    Ham radio operators play key role
    Self-defense for the rest of us

OK, I think that should do it!  Post this list somewhere handy, so you won’t overlook these items. What else should we add to the list? Just let us know in the comments!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. While we’re still on the positive aspects of preparedness, don’t miss my most recent Top Ten list!  It’s a collection of comfy camping items that would make ANY trip so much more pleasant — and fun!  Here’s the direct link: http://emergencyplanguide.org/top-ten/

 

 

Expand your thinking with some NEW IDEAS

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
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New Ideas

Real preparedness extends beyond the walls of our homes.

We spend a lot of time at Emergency Plan Guide examining the best supplies to lay in, and how to select the right emergency tools. Last week we reviewed in detail individual or family survival kits, and everything that needs to go into the best ones.

Yes, focusing closely on our immediate needs is a good idea.

But from time to time we need take a wider look around.  Joe and I often do this at our monthly team meetings.

This week’s Advisory could become a great topic for YOUR next meeting. At the very least, it will broaden your personal horizons!

Here are 7 news headlines to inspire NEUE IDEEN! (That’s German for “New Ideas!”)

For each headline, I’ve added a brief comment and then posed questions for you or your group to follow up with.

You know our favorite saying: “The more we all know, the safer we all will be.” Well, I hope these questions inspire a new level of knowledge – and safety!

1-“Fayetteville NC works on downtown evacuation plan in case of emergency on train tracks.”

It turns out Fayetteville has train tracks running right through the town. And the city doesn’t know exactly what those trains may be carrying. Since they have experienced more than one terrible train wreck, it seems to make sense to prepare for the next.

Questions: Do you have nearby train tracks? Do you know what’s being carried on them, and at what time of day? Perhaps more pertinent, do your city’s First Responders know this information? Find out! (Hint. It may be impossible . . . but whatever you can do will move the ball forward for your community.)

2-“Everett WA Graduates First Ever All Spanish Speaking Only CERT Class In Washington”

When the disaster hits, everyone will be pretty much in the same boat. Think of how much safer you’ll feel – and how much safer you’ll BE – when neighbors pitch in as a coordinated team!

Questions: Does your city put on CERT classes in another language? If not, what language/s should they consider? How could you or your group make that happen? (Think about reaching out to work sites, churches, private schools.)

3-“Florida’s 3,200 assisted living facilities and 640 nursing homes were ordered, by this week, to submit emergency plans that include enough generator power to run air conditioning . . .”

You surely heard about the 14 people who died in Florida during the aftermath of Irma. You may not have heard that nearly 2,000 facilities in FL haven’t yet complied with the order.

Questions: Do you have elderly relatives? Any in nursing facilities? What is that facility’s requirement for an emergency plan? What are your city’s requirements when it comes to emergency and/or evacuation plans for facilities of this sort? Can you bring pressure to bear if it appears to be necessary?

4-“The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency will begin testing its Attack Warning Signal or ‘Wailing Tone’ next month as they continue preparedness for attack from North Korea..”

Whether you live on the West Coast, the East Coast or in the middle of the country, a nuclear disaster is a frightening thought. It doesn’t have to be the result of war; it could just as well be the result of a natural disaster or even an accident at an aged facility.

Questions: Are there nuclear power plants anywhere near you? How old are they and what kind of maintenance do they receive and/or report on? What sort of warning signals do they have? (Have you ever heard one?) What’s the evacuation procedure for your home, your town? (Important: Sometimes the evacuation zones of plants overlap, which could make one or both of the individual plans inadequate.)

5-“Amid wildfire risk in Bay Area, UC Berkeley’s emergency management office to lose 50 percent of its staff…

This isn’t the only headline I’ve come across on the topic of staffing. Communities and their budgets change, often without much warning. If emergency management funds are cut, the quality of response to emergencies will decline.

Questions: Does your city have an Office of Emergency Management? An Emergency Operations Plan? Who heads up the department right now? What are the leader’s qualifications? What does the future for the department look like? What role can your local neighborhood group play in community preparedness? (Maybe you can get that department leader to be a guest speaker at one of your local meetings?)

Ask these same questions about the place where you work!

6-“JOHNSON COUNTY, ARKANSAS — The owners of C&H Hog Farms and the international corporation that supplies the operation’s swine are planning to apply for a permit to operate another farm, this one in a flood-prone area just south of Hartman.”

We heard just a couple of months ago about how unrestricted development added to the flooding tragedy in Houston. We all remember from 2014 the massive landslide that swept away an entire town in Washington – a town built below a hillside with a well-known history of slides.

Questions: What’s the status of your home and your community with regard to flood plains and/or past flooding? Has it been the victim of wildfires? What about hurricanes and/or tornados?

A developer, real estate agent and/or insurance agent may not be eager to share the history of the locale. In fact, they may not know it!

As a homeowner, you need to know this information. As a member of the wider community, you want everyone to know and be prepared to the extent possible.  What plans does the city have for growth and new development?  You CAN find out . . . and maybe keep ill-advised development from taking place.

7-PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State health officials are encouraging people with special health care needs to enroll in an emergency registry.

In a widespread emergency, people with special needs will be most vulnerable. But they’ll not get the help they need if people don’t know they need it! Some sort of registry, like the one mentioned above, may help direct resources.

Questions: Does your state or local community have a registry for people with special health needs? How do you sign up? How is the registry maintained? How is it updated?  Note: People with special needs could be a target for unscrupulous or even criminal behavior, so privacy and security for any registry are paramount.

How to use these headlines.

OK, so while you’re digesting this spread of preparedness morsels, I hope you will have taken note of several questions that you want to answer for your personal benefit.

You can expect that getting those answers will take some time.

But as we have discussed many times, being prepared is a continual state of mind built on awareness, knowledge, and confidence.

I think pursuing news headlines like these can help on all fronts!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Use these headlines at your next group meeting, or ask people to bring in their own news item on emergency preparedness. Pick a few to discuss. Come up with questions like those above and, if appropriate, turn getting answers into a group project.  (In our neighborhood team, we almost always have one small group or another pursuing one idea or another!)

 

Wildfires In Our Backyard!

Thursday, October 19th, 2017
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Virginia scanning important documents

Procrastinating no longer

Here in California wildfires are threatening thousands. Last Tuesday the evacuation area got within 5 miles . . . but fortunately for us, the fire turned and headed in another direction.

That fire is still burning, but for the time being we are safe.

The whole situation developed quickly. People just 15 minutes north of us were forced to leave their homes with only minutes’ warning.

Moreover, even though their houses haven’t been damaged, these people still haven’t been able to get home again!

The close call right here at home has made me reconsider our own state of preparedness.

I am embarrassed to tell our story of being “ready for evacuation.” 

I have written many times about go-bags.

Our go-bags were ready.

We have them in the house and smaller ones in the car.  They include a change of clothing, some water, first aid kit, personal items. At the top of each bag: shoes and a flashlight. So, all I had to do was put in some prescription pills.

I added a couple of personal items to my house bag, and some energy bars, and stashed it near the back door. So far, so good.

How about the car?

Our car was 7/8 full of gas, thanks to Joe’s unfailing attention.

Plus there’s a warm blanket and even a pillow in there, our CERT duffel bag, and a couple of walkie-talkies.

But what else would we put into the car?

Here’s where the challenge became clear.

  • What about our “original official documents” that we’ve collected over a lifetime – birth certificates, death certificates, marriage and divorce certificates. Military records. Transcripts. Credentials. At least they are all mostly in one filing cabinet drawer! One big swoop and they all landed in a cardboard file box.
  • What about proof of ownership of the house, the car, past houses, past cars, property taxes on all? What about insurance on all these? OK, another drawer and a second box was filled.
  • All the business records – we’ll take the computers themselves, a laptop plus a desktop with keyboard, screen, mouse. The back-up drives. Oh, and that binder with all the account passwords in it . . .Ugh. This would take time to disassemble and haul outside. We leave all this for later.
  • Photo albums! Another THREE boxes full, and we’re leaving the framed pictures behind on the wall.
  • All the cards — credit cards, health cards, insurance cards, passports. Plus some cash. Surprising how much room these take up when you never seem to have enough of them!
  • Phones, power bank, plugs and cords. Ham radio and batteries. This stuff is scattered throughout the house.
  • And more . . .

It quickly became clear that we have far more to save than is possible to stuff in the car.

But what was even more painful was the realization that for all our writing and speaking and encouraging and nagging, we had never taken the time to prepare fully for evacuation.

We have procrastinated about scanning our official papers!

Flash drive holds copies of important papers

The answer to important papers

The data from more than half the items listed above would fit easily on a couple of flash drives!

So, that’s why you see that photo of me at the top of the page, scanning what is actually my mother’s birth certificate! I’m using our all-in-one printer. Even a  modest multi-function printer can do a reasonable job as a scanner.

Of course, it will take hours to scan EVERYTHING using this printer/scanner.

So, I’m actually going to take it step by step. (I’ll be leaving the filled file boxes stacked in the hall, just in case another emergency arises!)

  1. First I need to come up with the labeling system I want to use to be able to find things later. (Not too hard. I’ll use the same file names I have in my computer.)
  2. I’ll start with documents that would be difficult or impossible to recreate, like that birth certificate, or photos.
  3. Documents that exist in some government or commercial file somewhere (like property tax records) will be a lower priority.

Of course, I could also scan documents using a smart phone. Depending on what version of phone you have, you can get an app that will allow you to scan documents into your phone, send to your computer or store in the cloud (DropBox, OneDrive, Evernote). Some of these apps are free; some cost a few dollars. Depending on what you need, you can adjust for size and clarity, combine multiple pages into one document, convert text into editable files, etc. This would work really well for scanning on the go, of course.

If scanning each document one at a time gets too onerous, I’ll likely invest in a higher-speed document scanner. (In the past we used a desktop scanner for business receipts. It scanned well but became outdated and as our business needs changed it wasn’t worth it for us to upgrade.) A full-featured desk-top scanner that can handle multiple pages at a time, with documents of different sizes and shapes, may cost $200-$400; the “mobile” models (about the size of a short box of tinfoil – the documents feed through one at a time) cost less than $100. Before you buy, make sure to find out if you are required to purchase a monthly subscription for the software and/or the digital storage as part of the deal.

Of course, you can also consider using a professional document scanning service. Many options are available. Some services scan, store, or shred. Some certify. Some can convert scanned documents to searchable pdfs for ease of retrieval. Photo retouching may also be available. It all depends on the number and condition of your documents, and your concerns for privacy.

In my case, images of my documents will end up in my computer, copied on a flash drive, backed up on our back-up drives, and . . .

I’ll also file these digital documents somewhere in the cloud!

We’ve prepared before for evacuation from potential flooding, but we had plenty of time to do it. This last week, once the order came down, we would have had only minutes to get things organized and out the door.

Yes, that go-bag is the first step. But taking care of other “loose ends” is also part of preparing for an evacuation.

Boxes packed for evacuation

Still in the hall . . .

This has been a valuable lesson for us. I hope it’s useful for you, too. I’ll let you know how the scanning goes.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

P.S. These are the boxes I mentioned. As you can see, they’ve been used before. We always have a few empty ones on hand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Harvey – The First Week

Thursday, August 31st, 2017
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Flood Hurricane Harvey

 

How well would you have done?

“I’ve heard it a hundred times: Be prepared for emergencies!”

I’m sure you have. And I’m sure the people in Texas had heard it, too. But what we witnessed this week suggests that a whole lot of them were caught unprepared.

Let’s take a look at some of what we saw just this week. It might be useful for all our neighbors and friends, not to mention ourselves.

We have learned a lot about Houston, Texas.

So many people who had been through past storms just weren’t ready for this one. Why not?

This is turning out to be an historical event. That is, NEVER BEFORE SEEN!  Not a hundred year rain, or a 500 year rain, or a 1,000 year rain. Amounts of rain outside the insurance guidelines; amounts that required weather forecasters to tear down their charts and build new ones, live on the air!

One simple fact stands out to help explain the event. Sea surface waters near Texas rose as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average, creating some of the hottest spots of ocean surface in the world. This heat is what caused the storm to develop so rapidly into a Category 4 storm. (Read more at The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/did-climate-change-intensify-hurricane-harvey/538158/

One neighborhood after another fell victim to flooding. Why is flooding so widespread in Houston?

Again, one fact seems to stand out: “over-development.

Houston has been called “The Wild West” of development. It’s the largest U.S. city to have no zoning laws. As millions of new residents have moved in, development has been allowed in flood-prone areas. Water management seems to be built on a patchwork drainage system of bayous, city streets and a couple of 80-year-old dams. (Looking for more background? Check out this article from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/harvey-urban-planning/?utm_term=.f2848cb00326)

The city just isn’t able to handle a big storm like Harvey.

(With more and increasingly violent storms on the horizon, you should be asking yourself about your own city’s plan and preparedness.)

Then we learned a lot from individual families.

From TV footage you could see and hear the differences between people who had prepared and those who hadn’t. Here are some of the images that stick with me, and questions we could all be asking ourselves.

1-We didn’t hear from people who actually evacuated safely before the rains hit. We did hear about some people who refused to evacuate. (One man was quoted as saying, “I got food and I got my gun. That’s all I need.”) Ask yourself: “Am I prepared to evacuate if word comes down – or would I resist, delay or flat-out not go?”

2-Many people were not prepared because they weren’t expecting a disaster. (“Lived here 20 years, assumed we’d be fine.”) Even if their homes weren’t flooded, when their neighborhood was surrounded by water, these folks hadn’t set aside enough supplies to shelter in place for more than a few days. Ask yourself: “How many days’ worth of supplies do I REALLY have?” (Follow-on question: What about supplies, including flashlights and batteries, for if the power is out?)

3-We heard so many stories from people who said they’d gone to sleep and then somehow, in the night, had wakened to find water in the house. If course, you don’t leave your TV on all night for weather reports. In an emergency, though, getting important communications in a timely fashion could mean the difference between considered action and panic. Ask yourself: “How do I plan to get emergency news?” (We’ve written before about emergency and weather alert radios that could be left on all night if need be! And here’s an Advisory with alert app info. And does your community have a Reverse 911 system, that is, an automated message delivery system that could notify you via telephone about impending flooding or other emergency?)

4-We saw image after image of people climbing out of boats with just the clothes they were wearing, perhaps gripping a small plastic bag with “valuables.” And did you see how many of them were barefoot?! Ask yourself: “Do I have an evacuation bag or backpack compact enough to carry or wear onto a boat or bus or even into a helicopter rescue basket?” (And does it have shoes in it?)

5-Pets were visible in nearly every shot. I saw a boat going by that carried probably a dozen animal carriers – just pets, no people! By the same token, I’m sure we all saw the image of the dog swimming at the end of his leash. If you have a pet, ask yourself: “Does my pet have a carrier? Can I get my pet INTO the carrier? Can I handle the carrier myself while helping my other family members?”

6-People were using landlines to call 911, and cell phones to share emergency messages via Twitter and/or Facebook. Ask yourself: “Do I know how to use social media in an emergency? Who would I send a message to? What’s their number/address?”

7-In the midst of everything, I heard newscasters mentioning that people were being urged to apply for disaster relief – like, immediately! (FEMA anticipates some 450,000 people will apply.) Ask yourself: “If I had to apply for relief from an evacuation shelter, would I be able to supply the necessary information?

Here’s a brief list, taken from the DisasterAssistance.gov website, of what you need for the application:

  • Social Security Number
  • Proof of citizenship (non-citizen national or qualified alien)
  • Insurance coverage you have (type, amounts)
  • Damage you’ve sustained (photos?)
  • Household income at time of disaster
  • Contact information

You might be able to provide direct deposit details, too, if you have them.

Don’t let Harvey get by without doing something about your own preparedness.

So do you know people who STILL haven’t done any preparing for an emergency because they “can’t imagine it happening?”

If you do, and if you care about them, please forward this article while Houston is fresh in everyone’s minds.

If you know people who need even more of a push to build a simple evacuation bag, send them to EmergencyPlanGuide.org with the recommendation that they buy our guide to building a custom survival kit. (Actually spending a few dollars may be the impetus they need to take this seriously.)
Build Your Custom Survival Kit
If you need to refresh your own kit, or build MORE kits so you have one for each family member, the workplace and your cars, our workbook will help sort it all out. (It has pictures, lists, charts, product reviews and recommendations – everything you need to approach this systematically and get it done!)

⇒    Here’s the link to the Guide: http://EmergencyPlanGuide.org/custom-survival-kit/.

Let’s all of us use Houston’s story to add to our own knowledge and resolve. And let’s contribute to helping residents of Houston however we can. They are going to need help for a long time.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. One other thing we learned about Texas is that people pitched in to help their neighbors. It was inspiring. Let’s hope that our neighbors would help us and we’d help them in the same way.

Back to School Emergency Checklists

Thursday, August 10th, 2017
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Safe at School Ready for the first day of school?

Every year new students wait eagerly for that first day of school. And often in the background, proud yet nervous parents hope their child will flourish in this new environment.

Many parents have already “done their homework” on what will be necessary for their child’s success. Parents and children have shopped for school supplies and probably some new clothes, too. Older students have invested in everything from electronics to sheets and bedspreads.

Everything is ready! Or is it?

What about being ready for an emergency at school? Are the children prepared? Are parents prepared?

If you’re a parent, use these questions to put the finishing touches on back-to-school preparations for your student.

Grade-school Parent Checklist

While there are no national guidelines for emergency preparedness for schools, you can find out your child’s schools procedures. You may need to be persistent to get answers to these basic questions:

  1. Threats. What emergencies does the school prepare for? (fire, natural disasters, active shooter?)
  2. Supplies. What emergency equipment is available for teachers, and have they been trained on it? (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, emergency lighting, lockdown safety kits?) Are several days’ survival supplies (food, water, blankets) for kids and faculty stored at the school?
  3. Student Practice. What emergency response procedures do students practice? (evacuation, lock down/secure school, shelter in place?) How often?
  4. Communications. What communications can you as parent expect in case of an emergency at school? (a phone call or text? notice on public radio or TV? a written follow-up report?)
  5. Parent Responsibilities. What does the school expect of parents? (list of emergency authorized caregivers/family members, provide emergency supplies for child?)

What if your persistent questions are not answered?

Worse, what if you realize that there are no answers to some of these questions at the school your child attends?

Step up and take a leadership role.

You can help improve the situation. Join the PTA. Get a copy of the 2013 Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans and, with a committee, put together recommendations for necessary changes based on your own location, size of school, etc. Present your recommendations to your school administration along with whatever publicity is appropriate.

The Guide is available for download here:   https://rems.ed.gov/docs/REMS_K-12_Guide_508.pdf and may also be available for purchase at Barnes & Noble. While the Guide was written by a number of government agencies (FEMA, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Federal Emergency Management) it is perfectly readable!

(I add this exclamation point because some similar documents are NOT readable by the average person, even ones as dedicated as I am!)

As you might expect, the Guide introduces the standardized “vocabulary” used by professional emergency planners everywhere, concepts such as Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery.

It also includes a discussion of privacy issues and the need to plan for disabled people.

The list of “emergencies” in the Guide needs to be updated, once again. In 2013 “active shooter” was added to the list of threats. Now, given developments in North Korea, Hawaii is formally adding “How to Respond to a Nuclear Disaster” to its emergency response plans!

College Campus Checklist

Every school will be different in the way it handles emergency preparedness. As a parent of a student or prospective student, you can help make sure the self-reliance you’ve encouraged at home will continue when your student is away at college.

Up until now your student may have counted on you for direction. Now that responsibility has shifted.

In working together to get answers to the following questions you’ll get the process started.

  1. Threats. What emergencies does the school prepare for? If your new school is in a totally different part of the country, the experiences you’ve had with natural disasters, for example, may be irrelevant. What NEW or DIFFERENT threats exist at this campus?

    UC Berkeley’s Office of Energy Management website starts with this eye-opener: “All campuses have their faults. Ours is 74 miles long and runs directly under our campus . . .!”

  2. Procedures. Who are the planners and the actual Responders on campus? It’s usually easy to find details on the campus website. (Check out Berkeley’s for example.) Read about security procedures, emergency operations, etc. Are all emergency plans only for administration and faculty? What role does the campus envision for students – do they get any training?
  3. Student Responsibilities. On nearly every campus students are expected at registration to connect with all emergency communications methods. This usually means providing emergency contact information (text, phone numbers, emails) and signing up for an alert service.
  4. Campus Resources. In addition to the emergency alert system, your campus may use sirens or loudspeakers to issue warnings. It may have a campus emergency website, emergency radio station and/or toll-free emergency information lines. Know when and how to use all these resources! Incidentally, it’s possible that the 911 number you’ve always considered as “your” emergency number may not be the best one on campus. Find out about special campus emergency numbers. Store all this info in your phone.
  5. Parent Responsibilities. As an adult, your student will be expected to make his or her own decisions in an emergency. Encourage your student to learn about evacuation routes, understand the definition of “shelter-in-place,” and to maintain at least a minimal survival kit. Some first aid knowledge helps, too. (Here’s an Advisory with more about survival at college, with particular emphasis on personal safety.) Of course, parents can probably access campus emergency websites or toll-free numbers, too, for up-to-date info when something happens.

As always, it’s the people closest to you — roommates, people on your floor — who will be there when the emergency happens. They are the ones who may need help — or will be able to help YOU. Building a strong team around you is the best thing you can do for your safety! 

Action Item: If your children aren’t quite ready for school, or are long past that stage, please pass this Advisory on to someone whose children are of school age.

Being ready for the school year happens to someone new every year!

Virginia 
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. One of our readers sent us his school’s “Emergency Information” publication delivered to all parents. It was crammed with good information — but unfortunately, “crammed” was the operational term. If you get something like that from your school, attack it one page at a time. There are sure to be good ideas hidden in there. Then share them with us!

P.P.S. This week the National Fire Protection Association came out with these pertinent statistics for college students:

 Firefighters respond to 11 dorm fires a day, and 86% of them are related to cooking!

If your college-aged kid is considering a hot plate or a microwave (legal, of course), at least review some safety measures. And don’t forget a Kitchen-sized Fire Extinguisher! (I own this one and like how it fits in because it’s white.)

 

 

 

 

Safety Checklist for New Employees

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
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Safety Is Your Responsibility

Where's the nearest fire extinguisher?

Are you a business owner? in charge of emergency response at your work? an employee of any sort?

If you’ve been there a while, you should be able to check off every item on the Safety Checklist below. Someone new, however, will have to make an effort to figure out all the answers.

New or experienced, these are SIMPLE THINGS THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW every day they come to work!

Read below the checklist for additional commentary and links to more in-depth articles.

The 12-Point Checklist

 

More In-Depth Info on Employee Safety

Some Advisories with more details for workplace preparedness:

If you want a more detailed review of how to build a Simple Business Continuation Plan – download it here:  http://emergencyplanguide.org/no-business-continuation-plan-is-a-threat-in-itself/

Suggested Next Steps for the Company

You can put this checklist to work in just about any workplace – office, factory, hotel, retail operation – wherever your business is located. Of course, you may prefer to use it as a sample and make your own, more customized version.

Either way, here are 3 suggestions for how to proceed:

  1. Share this article and the checklist with management. See what items they can check off; are there any items no one has thought of, or knows the answer to? Be sure you understand which items might have some liability connected to them.
  2. Decide on a plan for sharing the checklist (or a customized version) with all current employees. Turn it into a team effort, or a competition — whatever works to engage people and get them more aware of safety and their surroundings!
  3. Add the checklist to your on-boarding process for new employees. Obviously, they will need a helpful partner to be able to get through the list. I think they’ll find it to be a comforting exercise and one that will impress upon them the company’s commitment to preparedness and to safety.

Disclaimer from EmergencyPlanGuide.org

This handy checklist is not meant to be a full assessment of employee or workplace preparedness. Rather, it is meant as a simple, easy tool to create more awareness among people who are working together.

If the checklist starts a conversation about what’s missing, consider it a bonus. And then, put together a plan to fill those gaps!

We are committed to a continuing conversation about being ready for emergencies. As always, the more the people around us know, the better off we ALL will be!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

May 31 is Dam Safety Awareness Day

Monday, May 29th, 2017
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Who ever heard of this holiday?

Dam Safety Awareness DayMaybe the people who live near the 90,000 or so dams in the United States! (BTW, Texas has more dams than any other state, followed by Kansas . . .)

Most likely to have heard about Dam Safety Awareness Day, however,  are the people who live near the 17% of all dams that are considered by the American Society of Civil Engineers as having high-hazard potential!

Apparently the Oroville Dam in northern California, that came so close to collapsing this spring, was not even on that list . . .!

(Personal note. My dad, who among other things was a road-grader operator – “Best damn blade-man west of the Mississippi” – worked on the construction of the Oroville Dam in the 60s.)

The Oroville Dam didn’t collapse, thanks to quick action by its operators. But in the aftermath, it was discovered that its Emergency Action Plan had never been tested in the 50-year-life of the dam. And during that time, population in the area below the dam had doubled and evacuation options had changed. Officials admitted that had the dam actually broken, citizens would not have received a warning quickly enough to be able to get to safety.

What makes a high-hazard dam?

The ASCE defines it this way: “A dam in which failure or mis-operation is expected to result in loss of life and may also cause significant economic losses, including damages to downstream property or critical infrastructure, environmental damage, or disruption of lifeline facilities.”

And, the ASCE gives a grade of D to our dam infrastructure.

What risks do dams face?

Most dams become at risk simply because of age and lack of maintenance. This image from FEMA shows the kinds of weaknesses that appear as an embankment dam ages:

Embankment dam weaknesses

At the Oroville site, the problem wasn’t in the main embankment, but rather a break in the emergency spillway. When water was released to relieve pressure on the main dam, the spillway began to give way, which could have led to the whole thing collapsing.

Too much water behind the Oroville Dam was caused by unexpectedly heavy rain storms. But dam failures are not always caused by storm. Most are caused by settlement and damage from earthquakes, mechanical failures (like gates not working) and poor design (allowing for overtopping and blocking by debris).

So who is keeping track of whether dams are safe?

States regulate the vast majority of dams in the U.S. (about 80%). The Federal government regulates the remaining number.

Regulation is one thing. Actually doing the required maintenance is another. Most states’ safety programs are woefully underfunded and do not have any authority to require maintenance.

Keeping the dams safe is up to dam owners.  And nearly 70% of dams are privately owned.

For example, a homeowners’ association that wants its homes built around a lake will own and operate a dam. A utility may own a lake used for water storage or for electricity production. And, of course, large commercial entities (agricultural, mining, etc.) may build waste holding ponds behind dams.

As more dams are built, as downstream development continues, and as ALL dams age, the number of high-risk dams increases.

Where are these dangerous dams?

I tried to find a map showing dams and danger areas – called Dam Break Inundation Areas. It wasn’t easy!

What I finally discovered is the National Inventory of Dams, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. As a “non-government user” I could get into the database but even after I filtered for my own state, the data wasn’t easy to read. And I never found a map!

I encourage you to check it out yourself: https://nid.usace.army.mil If you have the name of a specific dam, you’ll get info faster.

Another course would be to inquire of your own insurance agent. You may have to shop for a specialist in flood insurance to get specifics for your own location.

Obviously, even if you personally are not in the path of water from a breech, you could be impacted in other ways by the failure of a dam.

Homes and businesses of people you know might be flooded; those people might be displaced. Your personal water supply might be shut off. Water for irrigation, fighting fires, etc. – all might be reduced.  Utilities that depend on hydro power could be affected. Transportation systems could be disrupted.

If we are near a dam, what should we be doing in the way of emergency planning?

1- People: Somebody manages that dam! Find out who, and ask these questions:

  • Who owns the dam? Has it been inspected?
  • Is there an Emergency Action Plan for the dam?
  • When was it last updated?
  • What kinds of warning systems are in place to warn us of danger or potential danger? (Sirens, reverse 911 calls, door-to-door notification?)
  • Are evacuation routes laid out?
  • What about people with disabilities?

2-Political: If you encounter barriers or obfuscation (love that word when it comes to things political!), consider these actions:

  • Urge your state to require a disclosure of whether property for sale is in an inundation zone.
  • Likewise, urge policymakers to require disclosure of dam-related issues to potential owners of dams and property around them.
  • Urge legislators to fund dam safety programs and to provide funding for those programs.

3-Personal: And everyone can add to their own personal emergency plan:

  • An evacuation route to higher ground.
  • How to evacuate family members who need assistance.
  • Practice evacuation route and point out a family meeting place.

Having an evacuation kit packed and ready to go is a given.

Want more info for your family or your group?

FEMA has produced a useful fact sheet (8 pages), available here:

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1486735320675-8b0597aca8b23c7e2df293310e248bee/NDSPFlashFactSheet2015.pdf

Hope this has added to your knowledge about the (often invisible) world around us!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. And the story behind the Dam Safety Awareness Day being on the 31st . . .

One of the worst disasters in U.S. History was the Johnstown flood of 1889, which happened on May 31.

At that time, Johnstown was a thriving community in western Pennsylvania. Nearby, a group of wealthy citizens had restored an old dam and created a private lake for fishing, sailing and ice boating.

In May the area experienced several days of extraordinary rain, and it was feared the dam would collapse. Nothing could be done, however, in part because debris had built up in the spillway, making it impossible to lower the level in the dam. Warnings were issued, but false alarms had been given before, so residents ignored them.

At 4 p.m. on the 31st, the dam was overtopped, and collapsed, sweeping a 20-ft. high wall of trees, railcars and entire houses down the valley toward Johnstown. There, the mass was stopped by a bridge, which became a second barrier, causing the water to back up and cover the whole town. Then, everything burned.

More than 2,200 people died in the Johnstown flood. The entire town was destroyed, and surrounding communities dealt with typhus, smoke, contaminated water supplies and outbreaks of violence.

The private club members and dam owners were able to claim the dam break was “an act of God” and escaped being held liable.

 

Maybe you missed this? Tsunami warnings.

Thursday, April 6th, 2017
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tsunami evacuation routeIt turns out that last week, March 27-31, was California’s 2017 Tsunami Preparedness Week.  While you may think tsunamis don’t apply to you personally, WAIT before you click away!

Who could find themselves in a Tsunami Danger Zone?

Maybe a LOT more people than you think!

In the U.S. several states are at risk for tsunamis: Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. And think of the US business travelers and tourists heading to Japan, Thailand, Singapore!

You could easily find yourself caught up in a tsunami inundation zone, anywhere in the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” countries.

My son was caught in the tsunami that hit the Pacific in 2004. He was vacationing in Thailand. As he reported it live on Larry King (!), he saw a “strange long wave” forming way out in the bay. He even paused to take a photo without realizing that the wave was bearing down on the beach much faster than he could run.

Yes, he was caught, washed off his feet and pushed into a building, where he was able to clamber up above the water and wait until it went down. He was young and strong and lucky. He lost only a shoe and a camera.

Over 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean weren’t so lucky. They lost their lives. This little map shows just how far that tsunami reached! 

That was in 2004, and many Americans really didn’t know how to recognize a tsunami.

My son didn’t. He would now, though, and you should be able to, too.

Do you know these three telltale warning signs?

1-A tsunami is typically caused by an earthquake. So, if you feel one, or hear news about one – or about a volcanic eruption, a big landslide or even a meteor hit – you need to be ready to act immediately.

2-You may not feel the earthquake, but you may see water receding, dead fish on the beach, or even hear the sound of an approaching wave.

3-You may see the giant tsunami wave approaching. It can be as high as 100 ft. and travel at 500 miles per hour! Often, the longer the tsunami travels, and the closer it gets to shore, the bigger and stronger the waves get. They don’t look like a regular wave that crests and breaks. Rather, the wave is more like a line of foam being pushed by a half-submerged building.

What to do if you see or expect a tsunami.

There’s no way to outrun a tsunami if you are on the ground when it hits. The only safely lies in getting away, to higher ground, BEFORE it hits. That means:

Heed tsunami warnings. In the United States, an NOAA Weather Radio might be the first to broadcast an alert. (Check out NOAA radios here.) Local radio and TV stations will also be issuing warnings. Some places have tsunami warning sirens.

Instantly get to high ground. Tsunami waves can reach far inland, carrying debris and destruction. Your goal is to get out of its clutches entirely by getting far away from the beach (often not possible), or by getting and staying above the height of the water. A hill or mountain is best; if necessary, climb to the fourth floor or roof of a steel-reinforced building.

Yes, some people have survived by climbing trees, but in many cases the trees are simply not tall enough to provide safety.

If you’re in a boat when the earthquake hits or you hear a tsunami warning, you have several options depending on how much lead time you have. No lead time? Head for a depth of 50 fathoms (300 ft) or more and monitor your radio. Boat owners, get more important details at http://files.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dobor/contacts/Plan-TSUNAMI.pdf

Stay in a safe place until all danger has passed. This could mean for several hours or even days. A tsunami is made up of many waves; don’t assume it’s over once waters have receded after the first big wave hits. People returning to their homes or to port to save personal items have been caught by the second wave.

How to prepare before a tsunami hits.

If you live in a potential tsunami zone, or are simply visiting, here are recommendations from the California Dept. of Conservation and from Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources:

  1. Know if you are in a tsunami zone. In the US, you can check at http://www.tsunamizone.org/knowyourzone/. Or check the World Map at http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-maps/tsunami-zones.html
  2. Find out what warnings you might expect from the community. Make sure everyone in your group knows what they are.
  3. Study the recommended evacuation routes – from your home, hotel and/or office. (Familiarize yourself with the signs, shown at the beginning of this Advisory.)
  4. Practice your evacuation route, particularly in an unfamiliar city. Remember, the tsunami could hit at night, knocking out all lights. It could also knock out bridges or roads, so you might need an alternate route to get to high ground. Everyone needs to understand the evacuation route, since you will not have time to track down other family members before you set out.
  5. Do you have children in school? Find out about school evacuation procedures.

Have an emergency kit ready, and grab it as you evacuate.

There is no time to pack personal items – you need to grab ONE thing and start moving immediately. Remember, you may have to wait for hours or days before the ALL CLEAR is sounded and you can return to your hotel or home.

Need more encouragement or suggestions? Many organizations sponsor special Tsunami Preparation Days and Weeks. Check this year’s calendar, shown in blue above.


This Advisory has been pretty straightforward and non-dramatic. If you don’t remember the images of the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, it might be worth your while to take a look at these 8 minutes of dramahttps://youtu.be/5IKIazZc-a8

The video clip, taken at an ordinary coastal city, starts off slow and easy . . . and then you just can’t believe the water coming, and coming, and coming . . . 8 minutes will give you an unforgettable idea of how a tsunami really behaves.

Pass along this information to friends and family – and stay safe! When World Tsunami Awareness Day comes on November 5, think back to some of the details you learned about here!

Virginia 
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. While we’re talking about tsunamis and earthquakes, did you know that April 26 is National Richter Scale Day!

 

 

 

Survey Tool for Your Group or Community

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
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Preparedness SurveyThis week I came across a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) survey through one of my Google Alerts. (Alerts are a great resource; find out about them here.) The survey is currently being put out to residents in several counties in Washington State.

It turns out that DHS has been conducting similar surveys in different communities since 2001, trying to track trends in preparedness.

And yes, some trends have emerged. For example, the surveys have found that full time employees have the highest level of personal readiness compared with other types of employees. People with children in school also report higher preparedness levels. And, as you might expect, different parts of the country have different levels of preparedness.

Overall, though, American preparedness has not improved markedly since 2001!

We here at Emergency Plan Guide are trying to change that trend!

Can we take advantage of this survey to improve the preparedness in our local groups?

I’m not suggesting that we use it like DHS does. I see some other uses appropriate for your local CERT meeting.

A look at the original survey.

Before I add my comments, here’s (nearly) the whole survey. (I edited it slightly.) Take a look to see what YOU think about it. (It is LONG. Scroll through quickly to get an idea of the scope and format.)

Citizen Expectation Survey (from Homeland Security)

 1. My home is located in the following area

  • ________________

2. My household includes: (Check all that apply)

  • Child (Birth – 5 years)
  • Senior Citizen(s) (65 and over)
  • Disabled Family Member(s)
  • Non-English Speaking Member(s)
  • Household Pet(s)
  • Tribal Member(s) (and Affiliation)

3. What’s your main source of local, state, and national news and information?

  • Television
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Newspaper/Magazine
  • Internet
  • Social Media

4. How do you primarily receive your local weather forecast information?

  • Television
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Newspaper/Magazine
  • Internet
  • Social Media

5. What is the best way of delivering severe weather or disaster news and updates to you?

  • All Hazards Weather Radio
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Television
  • E-mail
  • Phone Call
  • Text message
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Other Social Media

6. Does your family have a Family Emergency Plan?

  • Yes
  • No

7. Does your Family Emergency Plan include: (Check all that apply)

  • I do not have a Family Emergency Plan
  • My plan includes how to contact each other in the event we were separated during a disaster (phone, text, e-mail addresses)
  • My plan includes an out-of-state family contact person for when all local communications are down
  • My plan includes a specific meeting place in the event my family is separated
  • My plan includes how and where to evacuate to in the event we must abandon our home during a disaster
  • Other

8. Does your or your child’s school have an Emergency Plan for disaster?

  • I have no children
  • I have no children who attend school
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

9. Does your workplace have an Emergency Plan for disaster?

  • I am not currently employed
  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

10. Do you and all other members of your family, including your pets have a GO KIT, Get Away Bag or similar item? (Check all that apply)

  • Myself
  • Each family member
  • My pet
  • We have none
  • I do not know what a GO KIT or Get Away Bag is

11. I am aware of the risk and hazard to all local disasters, such as, earthquake, tsunami, severe weather, flooding, tornado and wildfire.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure
  • I have no risk or hazard to any of these disaster events

12. I expect an Earthquake to affect my community in the next:

  • year
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • 10 years
  • longer than 10 years
  • never

13. I expect a Tsunami to affect my community in the next:

  • year
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • 10 years
  • longer than 10 years
  • never

14. I expect Flooding to affect my community in the next:

  • year
  • 3 years
  • 5 years
  • 10 years
  • longer than 10 years
  • never

15. If a disaster is threatening, my expectation is, I will receive warning and instructions from the following: (Check all that apply)

  • Local City Government
  • Local County Government
  • Tribal Government
  • State Government
  • Federal Government
  • ALL Hazard Alert Weather Radio
  • National Weather Service
  • Local Emergency Management
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • Local Fire Department
  • Television
  • AM/FM Radio
  • All Hazard Alert Broadcast Siren (AHAB Warning Siren)
  • FEMA

16. If a disaster situation was imminent, would you evacuate your home if warned to do so by official authorities?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

17. If you had a 10 hour advance warning of the need to evacuate your home, how long would you expect it to take, to prepare and leave your home, once you receive the initial evacuation warning?

  • I would not evacuate
  • Under an hour
  • 1-2 hours
  • 2-4 hours
  • 4-6 hours
  • Longer

18. If you were to evacuate following a warning given by local authorities, would you bring your pet(s) with you?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure
  • I have no pets – I would evacuate
  • I have no pets – I would not evacuate

19. If you were to evacuate following an order given by local authorities, where would you most likely go?

  • I would not leave my home
  • I would stay with family/friends in my County
  • I would stay with family/friends in an area other than my County
  • I would stay in a hotel/motel in my County
  • I would stay in a hotel/motel in an area other than my County
  • If none of the above, explain where you would go.

20. What modes of transportation are available to you in the event you have to evacuate from your home? (Check all that apply)

  • I have no available transportation
  • Private automobile
  • Public transportation
  • Bicycle
  • I would rely on friends or family
  • Other (please specify)

21. I expect emergency response agencies to assist me if I must evacuate my home.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

22. If my County were impacted by a significant disaster event lasting multiple days, I expect Federal and State Response Agencies, including FEMA and the Red Cross, to respond within:

  • 12 hours
  • 24 hours
  • 2 days
  • 3 days
  • 4 days
  • Longer than 4 days

23. If my County were impacted by a significant disaster event lasting multiple days, I expect Local, City and County Response Agencies to respond within:

  • 12 hours
  • 24 hours
  • 2 days
  • 3 days
  • 4 days
  • Longer than 4 days

24. In a significant disaster event lasting multiple days, who would you seek out to obtain food or shelter assistance?

  • School
  • City Hall
  • Local Fire Department
  • Local Police Department
  • Church
  • Hospital
  • Unsure
  • Other
  • If other, please specify here

25. Have you signed up for the Emergency Alert and Notification System in your county?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I do not know if we have an Alert and Notification System in my county.

26. Do you have a NOAA All Hazards “Alert” Weather Radio?

  • Yes
  • No

27. Which news headline would likely interest you enough to read the associated article?

  • A Huge Winter Storm is Approaching With Winds Exceeding 150 mph and a Large Storm Surge.
  • We’re Awaiting One of the Most Extraordinary, Mind Boggling, Meteorologic Marvels, Never Before Witnessed by any Earthbound Creature.
  • Neither Headline Would Interest Me Enough to Continue Reading the Article.

28. Please indicate if you would like more information on any of the following:

  • Evacuation
  • Disabled/Functional Needs Disaster Preparedness
  • Livestock Preparedness/Evacuation
  • Pet Preparedness/Evacuation
  • Family Preparedness
  • Business Preparedness
  • School Disaster Preparedness
  • My Local County Emergency Management
  • Disaster Mitigation
  • Disaster Response
  • Disaster Recovery
  • FEMA/Flood Programs
  • Evacuation Routes/Shelters
  • Communications
  • Earthquake
  • Tsunami
  • Severe Weather
  • Disaster Volunteer Organizations
  • My Local County Emergency Notification System

29. Do you have suggestions, comments, questions or constructive criticism? Please write your comments or concerns here. (If you desire a reply, please leave your name, email, and phone number).

How to use the survey as training material. 

I’m usually an enthusiastic survey taker (or interview giver), but this survey is so long that even I felt like abandoning it halfway through.

Therefore, my first idea would be to divide the survey up into several sections or themes and use each one as part of, or the main focus of, a group meeting. For example:

  • Ask group members to complete a section of the survey themselves, and then use that section for discussion.
  • Assign sections of the survey to sub-groups and have them prepare background material or collect samples to share with the others.
  • Create still another version of the survey for neighbors who aren’t yet part of the group. You wouldn’t collect the surveys, but would design them as “eye-openers” for your neighbors!

Family Needs – Questions 1 – 5

Every family is different. Poll the group to detect commonalities. Share resources, such as the best TV channels for weather news, etc. What particular challenges would you have associated with children, older people, people not speaking English, etc.? What actions can your group take to help meet some of these challenges?

Individual Family Plans – Questions 6 – 9

If your group is not likely to have plans, whether family or work related, perhaps you can focus on providing step-by-step instructions on what should be included. At Emergency Plan Guide, we devote about half our Advisories to one facet or another of planning! Here’s a recent article on building a Family Plan and a one-pager for increasing workplace preparedness.

Building a Go Bag – Question 10

Provide people with a list; call a meeting that focuses on “show and tell” using one of the leaders’ bags. At work, make copies of “What to take with you” and distribute them. Check out our new custom survival kit workbook for families, too — it works for all families and can be an excellent benefit for employees.

Likely Threats – Questions 11 – 14.

We’ve had good luck getting experts to train us on different natural and man-made threats. YouTube has great resources, too. Stick with the threats that are most likely; no need to overwhelm everyone with EVERY possible threat! People will have their own amazing stories to share!

Warnings and Evacuation – Questions 15 – 26

Traditionally, about half the people, when asked, say they will NOT evacuate! Be sure people understand how and when to evacuate, and the fact that once they’re out, they can’t come back. Don’t forget to discuss how people with disabilities will be assisted to evacuate, and how to handle pets and large animals. In particular, note how long it might take for “authorities” to show up with help. (Check with your local Red Cross.) “Evacuation Realities” would be a popular topic to attract all kinds of visitors to a group meeting.

As for the “warnings,” you can help people know what to expect locally, show them how to sign up for local alert apps, and see if you can arrange for the purchase of NOAA Weather Radios.

Not sure I’d include – Questions 27 – 29

Caution: You may find some of these questions ask for information that you consider “too personal” to share openly. Feel free to remove or adjust those questions. In any case, be sure to discuss with your group the importance of privacy and how to maintain it.

Training is an ongoing challenge. (That’s why I pulled together my book on CERT Meeting Ideas.)

Finding already-developed materials like this survey is a boon to CERT group leaders. While this particular survey wasn’t designed for groups, it can certainly work as a refresher, as a discussion starter, or even as an agenda for several separate meetings.

Let us know if and how you find it useful!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

 

What Will You Take When You Evacuate?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
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Emergency exit

 

Remember the movie “Sully”? Talk about emergency response!

Sully tells the story of the emergency landing of a commercial airliner on the Hudson River in New York in 2009. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger brought the plane down on the water after engines were lost when the plane hit a flock of geese.

Two great moments from the film.

The day after the movie we used it at our neighborhood meeting to highlight crisp and clear emergency radio communications.

Remember when Sully was asked if he wanted to attempt a landing at Teterboro (NJ), and we all knew that it was just too far given how low they were, how they were losing altitude, how the motors wouldn’t re-start, etc.?

Sully responded to the complicated situation and to the question with just one word: “Unable.”

The movie had another wonderful moment that inspired me to write. At the last minute, after Sully had checked the entire sinking plane twice to be sure no passengers were left, he made his way back up to the cockpit. He grabbed a clipboard, then turned and jumped out of the plane.

I don’t know what that clipboard had on it.

But it was obviously important. And since everything he and co-pilot Stiles had done so far was “by the book,” grabbing that clipboard was obviously on his list.

And thus today’s Advisory.

If YOU have to evacuate your office or workplace, what would YOU take with you?

Do you have a list? Below is one you can start with. I say “start with,” because obviously every business setting is slightly different.

But every business, no matter how big or small, has certain legal obligations to its employees.

And when the business needs to restart after the evacuation, in the same location or in a different one, it will need certain vital information. Your list needs to have your company’s vital info on it.

What to take in an emergency evacuation

If you would like a full-size copy of the list, click here.

Action Item: Build a customized list.

Again, I recommend that you use this list only as a start. Take the time at your business to build a customized list. Some thoughts:

  • Keep it to one page! Use big print, simple language and the words you use in YOUR business.
  • You may want one list for employees and a different list for management.
  • Be sure employees keep their list handy/visible at all times.
  • You may want to assign certain employees as monitors to be sure certain areas of the office or workplace get evacuated.
  • You may also want to add to certain lists instructions about systems or machinery that need to be SHUT DOWN in the case of an evacuation.

We all use lists for everyday activities. But they work particularly well in the case of an emergency, when people can be rattled and in a hurry. Put some time into building your “What to take” list for your business, and you’ll feel and be safer.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. The list, and this Advisory, assume you have a more comprehensive Business Continuity of Business Continuation Plan. If you haven’t really started to build one yet, sign up for our Advisories, because we’ll soon be announcing the 2018 version of our Guide to a Simple Business Continuation Plan.

 

Survive An Airplane Disaster

Thursday, August 18th, 2016
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Announcement from the cabin attendant, “In the unlikely event . . .”

Last Friday I flew from L.A. to San Francisco. It was an evening flight so before we even started taxiing people had removed their coats and shoes, turned off their overhead lights, and curled up to get in a quick hour’s nap after a long week’s work.

"you have 90 seconds to get 370 people through this doorway . . ."

“You have 90 seconds to get 370 people through this doorway . . .”

Alarm bells started going off in my head!

Why?  Because I had just finished reading a series of articles about airline safety and here are some of the details that stuck with me.

Three Airplane Safety Facts

 

Fact 1: Most airplane disasters happen between 3 minutes after taking off and 8 minutes before landing.

With that in mind, I was horrified to see that at take-off most of my co-passengers were NOT thinking about emergencies, had NOT taken a look at the emergency brochure, had NOT checked their flotation device, had NOT noted the number of rows to the nearest exit.

Worst of all, many were barefoot.

If we had to evacuate, these people would be groggy, confused, and naturally hesitant to scramble out in the dark onto a strange, maybe hot or broken surface – or into the ocean!

We were set to fail the 90 second evacuation test.

Airplanes are designed to get everyone out within 90 seconds. To accomplish that, over the years airplane designers have widened the galley ways (to 30 inches), widened evacuation slides to handle 70 people a minute, etc.

The 90 seconds isn’t an arbitrary number.

It’s about how long you can keep moving to save yourself if you can’t take a good clean breath of air.

And that’s because, in the case of a crash, more people perish from smoke inhalation than from injury.

Well, our flight didn’t have a problem (after all, I’m writing this) and when we landed, I witnessed an orderly exit. Still, it took a long, long time for everyone to dig out their hand luggage from under the seats and from the overhead racks. And this reminded me of the second thing I learned.

In an evacuation, people naturally want to bring the stuff they boarded with. The problem?

Fact 2: Evacuation slides on modern passenger aircraft are designed to rapidly remove human bodies from a plane that may be as tall as a two story building.

Key word is “rapidly.” A rapid evacuation works only if you JUMP onto the slide. It won’t work if you attempt to sit down to start your slide.

Jumping and falling that fast means you cannot control suitcases, computer bags, or rolling luggage carts. For sure, slowing your fall means you will be plowed into by the 350 lb. guy coming behind you with HIS rolling cart.

Even in evacuation drills, trained volunteers with nothing in their hands get injured sliding that fast and that far.

Luggage on the slide makes injury inevitable.

Fact 3: Once you’re on the ground, the next sensible thing to do is get away from the airplane. Fast!

We have all seen movies where the heroes run away from a burning car, house, or boat and it blows up behind them. (Great special effects.)

This image could just as well be an airplane loaded with aviation fuel.  Do our heroes stop to take a video of the flames behind them . . .?

While we’re on the subject, here are just . . .

A Few More Airline Safety Tips

 

Negotiating Emergency Doors and Exit Rows

Apparently getting an emergency door open isn’t always as simple as it looks in that brochure. (“Pull down on handle, lift up door.”) In fact, some airline industry professionals suggest that you anticipate that half the emergency doors won’t be able to be opened at all – due to location of a fire, a damaged frame, whatever. That’s why you need to

  • Identify the two closest emergency exits as soon as you are seated.
  • Count the number of rows to the emergency exits so you can get there in the dark.
  • If you can choose your seat, get one within 5 rows of an exit.

(During my research I came across stories of people attempting to open the emergency doors during flight. Mostly, it’s because they (1) were drunk or (2) had never been on an airplane before. Unbelievable.)

Managing Yourself

In a crash, your goal is to get up and get out right now! Do not sit there checking to see if you are OK or waiting for your breathing to return to normal all while wondering what is going to happen next.

Remember that 90 second rule and get yourself and family members moving to the nearest exit!

Leave your luggage behind.

You are going to have to launch yourself off the side of the plane. Extra weight and/or encumbrances will slow your passage to the door and threaten your ability to slide safely and to negotiate your landing.

Of course, crew members will guide the evacuation. The more assertive they are, the better it will go, so don’t get huffy at being yelled at. Get off the plane!

“In the unlikely event . . .”

. . .is the subtitle for this Advisory, because air travel is still statistically safer than other modes of travel.

Even with all the bad news of recent months, a CNN update published in May 2016 for the first half of the year stated: “We are ahead of the 10-year average with eight accidents and 167 fatalities compared to the average of 10 accidents and 205 fatalities.” (Source was aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, editor of Airlineratings.com.)

When there is a crash, though, death statistics can be dramatic. Being aware and taking immediate action may keep you from becoming one of them.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

P.S. The Number 1 airline fact above – the 3 minute 8 minute rule – came from a book that we have read with great interest. It’s called Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life: A Former CIA Officer Reveals Safety and Survival Techniques to Keep You and Your Family Protected. The travel safety tips are just a small part of what is fascinating reading about protecting your home and yourself from people out to get you.

P.P.S. If you want to get regular tips and recommendations, be sure to sign up for our weekly Advisories below. There’s no cost, and you never know when one of our Advisories will be enough to save your life.

What threat do you face from a nuclear reactor emergency

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
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Nuclear Power PlantWe have written before about the shadowy world of nuclear power plants. In last week’s news I found another of the disconcerting developments connected with plants that have been shut down and that are going through the “decommissioning process.”

This news comes from Vermont.

Briefly, the purpose of decommissioning is to remove and dispose of contaminated materials so that the property may be released for other uses. Since decommissioning can be a long and complicated. the plant owner is required during the plant’s lifetime to set money aside for that purpose.

Naturally, once the plant stops producing power, owners want to shut it down as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.

One of the steps they take is to petition to have the “emergency zone” around the plant reduced. We have written before about the 50-mile-zone vs. the 10-mile-zone; you can check that Advisory by clicking here.

It turns out that Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, has successfully petitioned the NRC not only to stop supporting planning in the 50-mile zone, but also planning in the 10-mile zone. In fact, it has petitioned to eliminate ALL its responsibility to the 18 towns around the plant.

Apparently the funds set aside for decommissioning have also been “used for other purposes.” Lawsuits are being filed, hearings held. It’s not clear what the outcome will be.

But this brings up the whole issue of emergency planning around nuclear power plants.

Can you answer these questions about living near a nuclear power plant?

Nuclear Reactors U.S.1. How far away is the closest nuclear plant?

There are about 100 operating nuclear plants in the U.S., and most tend to have a low profile. So if you don’t really know where the nearest reactor is located, here’s a link to a map from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC):  http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/reactor/  *There’s a lot more info behind each pin on the map at the site.

2. In an emergency, how will you be affected?

The NRC defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: 1) a “plume exposure” zone with a radius of 10 miles, where airborne radioactive material would directly impact people, and 2) a second zone with a radius of 50 miles where contaminated food and water could be ingested by people within the zone.

(As a side note, Japanese authorities set a 20 km “exclusion zone” around the destroyed Fukushima Daishi power plant. That zone continues to be adjusted as radiation levels change as the result of government clean-up efforts and new weather events.)

3. What preparations can you make to protect yourself from a nuclear accident?

If you live near an operating plant, it’s likely that the first you’ll know of an emergency is when you hear a siren. (3-5 minute blast, repeated) Immediately tune to your local FM radio station or TV station, or to one of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) stations.

  • Plan to shelter in place. The major hazard in the plume area is direct exposure to the radiation cloud – through breathing, touching particles on the ground, or eating materials that have been contaminated.
  • Go indoors and stay there. Close doors and windows and shut off furnaces, fireplaces and air conditioners. Keep pets inside. If you’re in your car, close the windows and vents.
  • Keep listening for updates!

4. What will the authorities be doing?

  • An evacuation may be called. Grab your survival kit/evacuation kit and follow instructions. Hopefully your car’s gas tank is at least half full.
  • You may be advised to take potassium iodide (KI). KI is a nonprescription medication that blocks uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland. It is FDA-approved and readily available, coming in 65 and 130 mg tablets and liquid form; children need half or even a quarter of the dose for adults, so follow directions carefully. KI is effective for about 24 hours and you need to have enough to last every member of the family for several days or until you can get out of the affected zone. (See purchase info at the bottom of this article.)
  • You’ll be notified when it’s safe to return. (How can you be sure it’s safe? See “More resources,” below.)

5. What about the threat of a closed plant?

Here in Southern California, the San Onofre plant ceased operations in 2013 after a history of maintenance problems. The owner of the plant is just now putting final touches on its “decommissioning plan.” Spent fuel is being stored in one of the closed reactor containers — just hundreds of yards from the Pacific ocean (risk of tsunami?).  Since the 2010 U.S. census counts over 8 million people living within 50 miles of the plant, ANY emergency here will have a big impact!

Clearly, the chances of a nuclear disaster are far less for a plant that is no longer running, but as long as radioactive fuel is still being stored on site a certain threat remains, whether from a weather event (like what happened and continues to happen in Japan) or a terrorist event.

So it’s back to you and your emergency planning team, whether that’s your family, your local neighborhood emergency response team or your workplace leaders:

  • Are you near a nuclear plant?
  • Is it operating at full or reduced capacity?
  • Is it shut down or scheduled to be shut down?
  • What is the emergency plan for the site?

As an active and concerned citizen, it’s up to you to learn more. I hope this article can be the impetus. We’ll continue to share what we learn . . .

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

More resources:

Buy KI tablets. As you are shopping, consider the make-up of your family, and whether it would be easier for you to have smaller tablets (adults take two, child takes one) or even liquid (would have to be mixed with something). This is an inexpensive item so get a big enough supply that you don’t have to worry about running out. This particular item often goes on sale at Amazon — note its expiry date! (Click on image or link to get current price details.)


IOSAT Potassium Iodide Tablets USP, 130 mg, 14 Count

 

For more understanding of your circumstances, consider a Geiger Counter. You can learn more about them at this Advisory and take a look at two versions here:

SOEKS 01M Plus Generation 2 Geiger Counter Radiation Detector Dosimeter (NEW Model replaces SOEKS 01M)

GCA-07W Professional Geiger Counter Nuclear Radiation Detection Monitor with Digital Meter and External Wand Probe – NRC Certification Ready- 0.001 mR/hr Resolution — 1000 mR/hr Range

 

There are less expensive options, including this app that works with your phone. Its  low cost makes it attractive for people living or working in areas of moderate risk, or for people who want a backup unit to carry on the road.. . .

Smart Geiger Counter Nuclear Radiation Dosimeter “X-Ray” and “Gamma” Detector Smartphone Android iOS with App

 

Don’t miss a single Advisory. Sign up below.

 

Guest Speaker Sparks New Interest

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016
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Our neighborhood Emergency Response Group meets pretty much monthly, but when we go for weeks and months without a fire, or an earthquake, or even a downpour, sometimes it’s hard to keep up members’ enthusiasm.

Last month’s meeting “hit the spot” with a guest speaker.

Training sessionWe invited the new head of our city’s Office of Energy Management. And since he is new to the job, we provided him with . . .

Some questions to start the discussion.

Here are his answers, with a few comments from me. You might be able to use these same questions for your own group, or for your own guest speaker representing an official position. In any case, even if it takes some research, your neighborhood group members should know the answers.

Q: What kinds of emergencies does the City prepare for?

A: Our City’s Emergency Plan lists 9 threats — natural, man-made and what we call “technological incidents.” It’s not just earthquakes; we could be hit by an airplane crash, a chemical spill, a wildfire . . . you name it.

Q: Who’s in charge?

A: When the City activates its EOC (Emergency Operations Center), which is part of the Police Department, all directions come from there. The EOC coordinates local, city, county, and even state and federal resources when necessary.

Q: How often is the EOC activated?

A: It wasn’t activated at all in 2015, which was unusual. In prior years it’s been activated for a major power outage and also for a big manhunt.  Training takes place regularly, though. We train using table-top exercises, functional exercises (testing one particular function, like evacuation or communication) and full-scale exercises.

Q: In an emergency, how will we residents know what to do?

A: If all communications are out, expect a delay before you hear from us. But you have a better chance of getting the news if you have a landline (for reverse 911 calls), an emergency radio (channel 1640), and have access to social media via the internet.  Both the City and the County have smart phone apps, too, that send out automated alerts and news.

Q: Should we turn off our gas if there’s an earthquake?

A: Use your nose as a sniffer! If you smell gas, contact the property manager or 911. In the case of multiple leaks, trained residents can turn off the gas to the whole neighborhood – but then you will ALL be without gas for days. In an earthquake, if there are multiple gas leaks, the real danger is fire, so do NOT start your car or otherwise cause a spark!

Q: What about evacuating?

A: Don’t go anywhere unless you’re told to by authorities.  Our City has a number of evacuation centers and depending on the emergency we will choose which ones to use. We also have vans filled with supplies stationed throughout the City. The Red Cross has a goal of having an emergency shelter set up within 2 hours, but in a large-scale emergency that goal is not likely to be met.

It will take a while to organize everything – so be sure you have what you need to take care of yourself at home. (Note from Virginia: In our neighborhood, the plan is Shelter-in-Place for as long as it takes. We will be better off in our own beds and with our own things if at all possible.)

Q: How long a wait should we plan for?

A: We ask that you have supplies for AT LEAST 3 DAYS. Enough for 7 days would be better. That means water, food, medicines, flashlights, warm clothing, etc., for you and your pet.  We recommend a gallon of water a day per person. (Virginia: We recommend 10 days to 2 weeks’ worth of supplies as being more realistic.)

Q: What about people with special needs?

A: Our city makes no particular plans for special members of the community because we can’t anticipate what will happen. If you are on oxygen, register with your oxygen company so you will be on their list. In a big emergency, it’s your neighbors who will be most able to help right away. Make friends! (Virginia: This answer wasn’t satisfactory. Watch for more in an upcoming Advisory.)

Q: What role does the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team play?

A: The City has free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, and a number of people here have had that training. CERT graduates will have an idea  — and the SAME idea —of how to respond in an emergency: how to check on neighbors, assess damage, and manage communications. If you have taken the training, you will be safer yourself, and be able to step up to help.

(Virginia adds: Because our neighborhood team has its own ham radio station, it can listen in to emergency communications and actually report in on conditions here. Most neighborhoods won’t be able to do that.)

Q: How will we know what to report?

A: It all depends on having Block Captains who know their neighbors and know how to use their walkie-talkies to report in. You will always need more members of the team because you don’t know who will be here when an emergency hits.

Q: How do we find out more about CERT?

A: Contact the City.

Q: How do we find out more about our local group?

A: Contact your group leader to find out more.

At this point, we took over the meeting.

We passed out maps of our neighborhood, showing the Divisions, with the names and phone numbers of the Division Leaders. We introduced the Division Leaders. Our guest from the Police Department handed out some lists of emergency supplies and some brochures with general safety tips.

Then we adjourned to cookies and punch.

As follow up to the meeting we will publish notes similar to this Advisory, and contact some people who seemed interested in CERT training. (Unfortunately, our City’s classes are full for the next few months.)

A new face, even with the same message, helps a lot to keep up the momentum of your preparedness efforts. Who can you get to speak to YOUR group?

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

CERT Meeting IdeasP.S. If you have taken on the responsibility of planning meetings for your local group, you may want to take a look at the collection of CERT Meeting Ideas we put together last year. It has over 20 proven ideas with agendas, timing, materials needed, etc.

And stay tuned to Emergency Plan Guide, because we share our experiences — great and not-so-great — on a regular basis right here.

 

Are you within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant?

Friday, June 12th, 2015
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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) mandates that cities have an emergency evacuation plan for a 10-mile zone around a nuclear power plant – the ERZ or Emergency Planning Zone.  The rationale is that a radiation plume could impact people within this zone, so the plan is to remove people from the area as quickly as possible.

Outside the 10 mile zone, the NRC identifies a second zone that stretches out to 50 miles. Within this 50-mile zone, people won’t necessarily be directly affected, but food and water may become contaminated, so the plan needs to consider these dangers.

Multiple and overlapping EPZs

Example of multiple and overlapping EPZs

The graphic shows examples of multiple and even overlapping EPZs in North Carolina.

Recent news reports suggest that the EPZ rules from the NRC may be woefully inadequate. 

Here are questions you (and your neighborhood CERT group) should get the answers to. 

If you live within 10 miles of a nuclear plant, ask  . . .

“What’s my city’s plan for me?” 

Get a hold of your City’s Office of Emergency Services and pose questions like these:

  • What are the evacuation routes out of the zone?
  • Are they the same in summer and winter, when they may be impacted by snow, high water, etc.? Day and night? Weekday and weekend?
  • What year was the plan drawn up? What changes have occurred in population and in transportation options since the plan was drawn?

A 2012 study commissioned by PSEG (Public Services Energy Group) estimated that only half the population in the surveyed area (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey) could escape the 10-mile zone within 90 minutes – and the plan was based on population figures that have already been exceeded!

“What do I need to know for my family?”

Keep asking more questions. The NRC requires that cities provide residents every year with “radiological emergency planning materials.”  According to FEMA, you may get this information in your utility bills, via a pamphlet, or even in the phone book.  (Who reads the phone book anymore?!)

You should get answers to . . .

  • How will I know there’s an emergency?
  • What does radiation do, how does it act?
  • What should I bring with me if we have to evacuate?
  • What do I need in order to shelter in place?
  • I’m disabled. How do I get special assistance? (Typically, you’ll be asked to have a written request on file.)

If you live within 50 miles of a plant, ask . . .

“Does my city have any plans for me?”

 Maryland-based Disaster Accountability Project surveyed parts of 11 states within 50 miles of five operating nuclear plants, again in the northeast. 

Ben Smilowitz, Executive Director of the DAP group, reported that cities are not planning beyond the 10-mile limit.  Per Smilowitz, “Most people that live 20, 30, or 40 miles away from plants do not realize that their communities are only adhering to bare minimum standards for radiological emergency preparedness.”

Moreover, in this part of the country, millions of residents live within multiple overlapping emergency zones of up to seven reactors!

Find out more about nuclear reactor emergency response.

In Fukishima, the U.S. government extended the recommended EPZ to 50 miles. With this disaster still in mind, here are more resources for you and your CERT group:

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

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Pack Your Survival Kit for Evacuation

Sunday, May 24th, 2015
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At our neighborhood CERT meeting yesterday, the question came up about the best emergency supplies kit.

Whatever kit you have is better than none.

If you are forced to leave home (or work) in a big hurry, you’ll only have time to grab “the kit,” and hopefully a bottle of water. Whatever is in the kit is what you’ll have to work with. You won’t have time to do any packing!

If you don’t have a kit, you’ll be worse than useless – you’ll be a burden on others.

Assume you have to manage your kit yourself.

Here in California nearly every trip I take is in my car, so I have several types of emergency stuff packed in the trunk. But what if roads are impassible, or the car is disabled, or we are asked to evacuate ON FOOT?

The only solution: ONE bag that I can carry myself.

Can you carry your kit?

At our meeting, several people stated flat out, “I can’t carry anything.” These were people who need a cane or a walker, who have back problems, or who are simply not very strong.

How many people in your family or your team at work would have trouble carrying a bag?

Which survival kit option would work best for you?

The best option . . .

for a survival kit is a backpack that will leave both your hands free.

When Joe and I decided to put together our kit  we looked for a backpack that was light, flexible and NOT TOO BIG. (Our build-it-yourself kit, shown in the image with its accompanying book, has sold out at Amazon.)

If you’re a hiker, you’ll be familiar with much larger and sturdier backpacks, with many more features. Maybe you even have one you can use for a survival kit. But we looked for a pack that the ordinary person could (1) afford and (2) be able to manage.

Because your backpack needs to be compact, you have to be deliberate in selecting what needs to be in it. It’s easy to lay out too much stuff!

Second best option . . .

in my opinion is a rolling cart. You can select something as sturdy as a rolling suitcase, but for emergency, infrequent use you likely will want something simpler, smaller and lighter. Here’s what looks like an excellent choice. This one’s called the  California Pak The Big Eazy 20 Inch, Navy Blue, One Size
and it comes in various sizes and colors.

 

Some things to consider about a rolling cart:

  • Does the cart/bag have a handle so it can be carried by hand if necessary?
  • Could you fit it on your lap in a bus?
  • Does it zip up or otherwise close completely?
  • Is the handle long enough for you?

Each person needs a kit, and each kit will be different.

What you think is important and are willing to carry is up to you. Your 10-year-old child, though, probably needs a few different items (including snack food!). And your 79-year-old grandmother needs other items altogether.

Action Item: Build a basic kit for each person, and then add those individual items to customize the kit to its owner.

Store the kit near the exit door, so you can grab it on the way out. You’ll only have minutes – but you’ll feel a lot more secure heading out if you have your survival kit in your hands.

It’s always back to basics, right?!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Your pet needs an evacuation kit, too. Here’s a link to more about your pet’s survival kit.

 

Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities or Special Health Needs

Saturday, December 6th, 2014
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Overlooked or Abandoned?

Every week I get one or another Google Alert about some group that is either not taking care of itself in an emergency or that has been overlooked by “the authorities.”

In our community CERT group, we do not have the where-with-all to take care of neighbors with disabilities. We don’t have specialized medical knowledge, or (expensive) specialized equipment or even the physical stamina to lift or move some of them. But . . .

We are aware of our neighbors and do our best to keep their needs in mind . . .

as we work on building our – and their — readiness to respond in the face of a disaster. As you build your own neighborhood group, here are

Some questions to ask:

Evacuation sign for disabled.

from Lee Wilson, founder at The Egress Group. More at http://accessibleexitsigns.com/

Shelter-in-Place.  When a heavy storm hits, the best course for most people is to shelter in place, assuming they have stored food, clothing, etc.  The questions to ask your disabled neighbors:

  1. Do you have food supplies that you are able to prepare for yourself (canned food, water) or do you depend on regular food deliveries from Meals on Wheels or other food service?
  2. Do you use any electric or electronic devices to treat a chronic condition, such as breathing treatments or sleeping machines? What plans do you have for back-up power? (Oxygen tanks, battery back-up)

Needed travel.  Do any of your neighbors need regular trips away from their home to get medical treatments like as kidney dialysis? In a severe weather situation, can your neighbor answer these questions:

  1. Do you know what to do if you are unable to reach your doctor for several days? (diet, hydration)
  2. Do you know where to go for treatment if your local clinic is closed? (addresses of alternate locations)
  3. Who would come to get you for dialysis if your regular caregiver isn’t available?
  4. What if the elevator isn’t working?

Evacuation.  In the case of an evacuation, many people who may not appear disabled may need assistance.  For example, people who are hard of hearing might not recognize the signal to evacuate. People with difficulty walking might not be able to negotiate stairs. People who can walk may not be able to handle door handles or locks. Questions to ask:

  1. Does our building/community have evacuation signage that incorporates signage for disabled people? (visual? touchable?)
  2. Is there a plan to find people ready and able to assist disabled people to evacuate?
  3. Is specialized evacuation equipment necessary, and available?

Practice and planning do make a difference.

The National Fire Protection Association’s 2007 Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities tells the following story.

During the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, a man with a mobility impairment was working on the 69th floor. With no plan or devices in place, it took over six hours to evacuate him. In the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the same man had prepared himself to leave the building using assistance from others and an evacuation chair he had acquired and had under his desk. It only took 1 hour and 30 minutes to get him out of the building this second time. 

Perhaps you can share this story with friends and with your CERT team to stimulate some creative thinking.

 

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Forward this email to someone you know who could use the information.  One out of five Americans has some sort of disability.

 

 

Emergency Action Plan in Your Workplace – What Protection Does It Really Provide?

Sunday, July 28th, 2013
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Fire exit signThe US Department of Labor has a division called Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA. I’m sure you’ve heard of it!

OSHA deals with a wide variety of employment issues, including protecting privacy, procedures for non-discrimination and retaliation, etc. OSHA also sets standards for safety, including requirements for Emergency Action Plans.  Does your workplace have a Plan?  Is it working for you?  Here’s an overview to start the conversation . . .

Who needs an Emergency Action Plan?

Just about every business. Take a look around your workplace. Do you see any fire extinguishers? If there were a fire, would you and co-workers need to evacuate the premises? These are the two key questions, so if you answer “Yes” to either one, you need to have an Emergency Action Plan!

What are the requirements for a Plan?

  • It must be in writing.
  • It must be kept in the workplace.
  • It must be available to employees for review. (An employer with 10 or fewer employees may simply announce the plan contents in a staff meeting or otherwise orally.)

 

What does the plan contain?

  • Information about how to report a fire or other emergency (Public address system? Call 911? Pull fire alarm?)
  • Evacuation procedures and identification of escape routes (Nearest exit? Maps or diagrams?)
  • Location of fire extinguishers and who is authorized to use them (Not everyone?)
  • Critical steps to be taken before the workplace is emptied (Shut down equipment? Close doors? Do nothing, just get out?)
  • Procedures for keeping track of all employees after an evacuation (Where are records?)
  • Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to perform them
  • Who to contact for more information

 

How often does the plan have to be updated, or shared with employees?

Clearly, a number of plan items need to be regularly updated, such as the list of employees and the list of employees with special emergency skills or who require special training. There doesn’t seem to be a requirement to revise the plan on any regular basis, or to actually practice it. The plan must be shared with all employees covered by it, however, including new employees.

What if we should have a plan, but don’t?

OSHA provides an on-line eTool that you can use to create a basic plan. Just fill in the blanks and print it out. (Note that the material is NOT SAVED if you stop in the middle, so you need to complete all sections in one sitting.) You will discover that the questions, while simple, will force you to make some important distinctions about employee behavior in an emergency. You can find the eTool at:

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/expertsystem/emergencyplan.html

What’s the bottom line?
An Emergency Action Plan is really only a FIRE EVACUATION PLAN
.

It is not an emergency preparedness plan or a disaster response plan. It has no provisions for assembling emergency supplies to protect employees or plans to protect the business itself in the event of a disaster. Still, it is a first step to survival awareness.

Action Item: Be sure your workplace has an Emergency Action Plan as a bare minimum

Stay tuned to Emergency Plan Guide Advisories, because we’ll be dealing in more detail on Business Continuity planning.

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Are you in a flood zone?

Saturday, April 6th, 2013
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Like maps?

If you are a map fan, check out FEMA’s Map Service Center to see whether you’re in a flood zone. The map is designed for ordinary citizens, but also for real estate and insurance specialists, who can create printouts coordinated with the Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map.

Starting in May, 2013, the map service is being expanded and upgraded. But in the meanwhile, you can do what I did to check out your own home and community. It’s easy!

Go to www.msc.fema.gov.

Do a “Product Search” by filling in your address. A second screen will come up identifying your general area (county). Click on “View” and be patient as the data loads. Ultimately, you’ll be rewarded with a very small map of your area!

FEMA map shows flood zones

Red arrows point to flood zone markings

You can adjust the scale at the top of the screen. (I changed the 4% to 15 % and that gave me a much better size map, and I could read most of the street names.) You can also click on the “pan” button on the left (looks like a little hand) and move the map around. (Again, be patient since it’s a lot of data and the map re-adjusts slowly.)

Once you’ve found the right area and the right level of detail, search for overlays. In our example, the gray dotted area (left arrow in the illustration) indicates a 500-year-flood zone, and the bright blue color (right arrow in the illustration) indicates a 100-year-flood zone, which means there’s a 1 percent chance of a 1-foot or higher flood in that area in any given year.

In the illustration, the blue area happens to be a key highway/railroad overpass/underpass. This interchange is about one mile from our neighborhood, so a flood there would definitely impact our emergency response, particularly if an evacuation were called for.

Check out this resource for your neighborhood, and also for your business or place of work. It’s interesting and good information to have.

We’ll be sending more info like this in future Advisories, so sign up so you can be sure to get it.

 

 

 

 

Emergency Supplies List

Friday, February 15th, 2013
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If you’re looking for a checklist, you’ll find many, many of them online. FEMA offers up a 26-item list; the American Red Cross has a 36-item list, and different commercial companies (selling tools, pre-made kits, insurance, dried food)  have their own lists, some of which extend to hundreds of items.

Different lists serve different purposes

Comprehensive checklist

Page One of list

Over the years we have created or used different lists for different purposes. For example,

* At an introductory neighborhood meeting, you may wish to distribute a simple, one-page list with items that apply to everyone and that won’t appear too intimidating.

* In a community where people have had some training, a more comprehensive list would be a good idea. (We wrote earlier about the “door-hanger list” that we created for our community.) Naturally, adding items appropriate for the geography would make sense: rain gear, for example, or cold-weather gear.

* In a senior community, a list might focus on items that apply to older people: 14-day supply of medicines (and how to get your doctor to give you extras), extra eyeglasses, batteries for hearing aids, etc.

* A community with pets needs a completely different set of reminders. (You can get a copy of our Emergency Pet Supplies Kit here.)

* A quick reminder card, useful for teaching, might have only a half-dozen items or a specific, focused list of supplies (for example, what you need in your first aid kit).

Our Emergency Supplies List

The Emergency Plan Guide has prepared its own comprehensive list. We have found that breaking it into three sections makes it easier for people to focus on. The three sections are:

 17 basic items for a 3-day emergency

 11 more categories for managing an extended, 14-day emergency

 10 essentials to take if you must evacuate

What’s important is to get your list, and then take the time to see what’s missing from it based on your family’s needs. Add those items to the list, and start assembling!

Like many families, you may need to prepare not only for the three situations listed above, but you may also want to put together specialty kits to carry in your cars, for students away from home, or for the office.

Get started now!

There is no time to assemble emergency supplies after the earthquake, after the storm has hit, after the fire has forced you out of your home.  Action item:  Download the Emergency Supplies Checklist and get started.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S.  I am not called the “Queen of Lists” for nothing!  Stick around Emergency Plan Guide and you will discover a number of them. Lists help me think, and keep me on track.  I hope you’ll find them useful, too!

 

OSHA Fact Sheets

Friday, September 14th, 2012
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If you are an employer looking for more guidance regarding workplace preparedness, and are ready to delve into the regulations surrounding this area, OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration — has published a number of informational factsheets on workplace emergencies and workplace preparedness.

Among them:

Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies

This two-page overview lists requirements for companies with more than 10 employees. Sections of the report include:

o Planning
o Chain of Command
o Emergency Response Teams
o Response Activities
o Employee Training
o Personal Protection
o Medical Assistance

How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations (OSHA 3088)

A far more comprehensive document, this 25-page report is written for the employer, to make sure the employer is following all required and recommended procedures to protect the business. This document covers all the items listed in the fact sheet above, with particular attention to fires and evacuations. A comprehensive flowchart on page 11 determines just who is required to have a written Emergency Action Plan.

Both OSHA reports are available at www.osha.gov.

Emergency Plan for Workplace

Step-by-step to workplace preparedness

Simple Plans for Small Businesses

If you own or work in a small business, you may still require a plan.  In the absense of more formal arrangements, download the Emergency Plan Guide’s Seven Steps to Workplace Preparedness.  It will give you a place to start.

Follow up with other Advisories that deal with finding workplace leaders and assembling your workplace emergency response team.