This article was co-authored by Don L. Nicolaysen (KR6US)
Last night, Tuesday September 28th, I spoke with a survivor of the San Diego (2003) fires. We discussed insurance and other issues for those who have been victims and those who may someday be. The risk of fire in the southern California is at it’s highest in many years. This can happen again, prepare. The past three weeks we have seen fires in Colorado, California and Utah which have destroyed hundreds of homes. If you have been a victim of one of these fires, or know someone who has, please send them the link to READY OR NOT It is filled with information which will be of great help while dealing with insurance companies and the struggles of rebuilding.
What will you do if disaster strikes while you are at work? Suppose the kids are at school, your spouse is running errands across town, and you are 40 miles away at the office. The sudden arrival of a tornado, an earthquake, flooding from a levee break, or a sudden firestorm could change everything in a moment.
In Los Angeles, for example, more than 200,000 commuters travel across the San Andreas Fault every day. Scientists have concluded from the charting of major earthquakes over the past 700 years, that a major quake in Southern California is well overdue – or likely to occur “soon”. If in the course of events, a quake on the scale projected happens on a workday, families would be separated from each other for an extended time. Freeways would be disabled by collapsed bridges and roadways, there would be no electricity, no traffic lights, no gas stations pumping gas, no ATMs, no grocery stores for supplies, no running water, and telephones and cell phones will probably not be working, or will be overloaded.
Will your school be prepared with an emergency plan in the case of such an emergency? Do you know their plan?
How will you get word to your spouse that you are o.k., or worse, how will you know if your spouse and children are alright? Will they understand that it may take an extended time to get from your workplace to your home or meeting place?
Such scenarios may seem far-fetched, but we have seen families experience such traumatic events in the aftermath of the Oakland Hills firestorm (1991), the 9/11 terror attacks (2001), the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), Hurricane Katrina (2005), earthquakes in Haiti and Chile (2010), floods in Tennessee (2010) and the San Bruno firestorm of 2010.
Whether such events involve millions of people, or just your neighborhood – if it touches your family it’s a disaster all the same.
Do you have a plan for such events? Your plan should include at least these three elements:
• Prepare emergency kits to sustain yourself and your family
• Make a family emergency plan
• Be informed, and prepare to communicate if the worst should happen
Just to review some points on the first two items:
1) Emergency Kits should include
• One kit for home – enough food, water and basic essentials to sustain you and your family for days or weeks. Experience shows that you cannot count on someone else coming to your rescue. Be prepared to be on your own for awhile.
• A smaller portable kit to take with you if you have to suddenly leave (evacuate). At least 72-hours worth of basic essentials.
• Additional kits for the office and each car.
• See www.ready.gov, or visit our blog.
2) A Family Emergency Plan should include:
• Meeting Places – Choose two places to meet: one in your neighborhood and one outside your neighborhood
• A Household Inventory – Photos, video, or lists of items in every room of the house, garage, attic, and basement. In a disaster, your first job after seeing to the survival of your family, is to have every document you need to collect on your insurance.
• School and Work Plans – Learn about the emergency plan at your children’s school, and the company disaster plan where you work. If they don’t have plans, make it your job to see that they get a plan. FEMA has lots of ideas for them, and your future employment may depend on your employer surviving the disaster, too.
• Out of Town Contact – Who will your out-of-town family call for the latest reports about you and your family, if you cannot be reached? Even more important, in case local phone calls and cell traffic are a problem, it may be easier to reach someone outside the area, or even outside the state. Pick someone at least 50-miles away or further, and include them in your planning.
• Make a list of items to take in an emergency – a list of things to grab if there is only a 2-minute warning, and additional lists for a 15-minute and 30-minute warning. Just this week we heard a woman on TV say she had only 5 minutes notice to evacuate from the Herriman, Utah fire. That is not unusual in that scenario.
• Make assignments to each member of the family. Who will do what if you have to evacuate quickly?
• Practice – hold drills for a house fire, and for a disaster evacuation. Improve on areas that are not working. Take stock of how much you can carry in your car, including pets and family. Be realistic. Get a car top carrier if necessary to make your evacuation plan work.
And now some thoughts on communicating in an emergency event, if you and your family are separated:
3) Prepare to Communicate and to Be Informed
• Know the different types of emergencies and their appropriate responses.
• Learn about local emergency plans, warning systems, radio stations and other emergency messaging resources for your community. Find out what agencies will respond to an emergency.
• Keep a list of phone numbers for family (home, work, cell numbers), numbers for your children’s school, church leaders, doctors, hospital, fire, and police. The 911 circuit will be overloaded. You will need direct numbers to get through.
• Keep a list of essential info like social security numbers, a photo of each family member, and a family group photo with your plan documents.
• Use landline phones sparingly. In the hours immediately following a disaster event, phones will be essential to save lives. Make only brief and informative reports to your out-of-town contact, and ask them to make the calls to your extended family and friends to report your condition. They will need a list of your family contacts as well.
• Cell phone towers may lose power, and will be overwhelmed with cell traffic. Be prepared to text with family members, as text data will often go through when voice calls are failing.
• Consider amateur (ham) radio as part of your family emergency plan. Ham radio operators are likely to be helping first responders and relief organizations like the Red Cross. Get a ham radio license and learn to use VHF radios to communicate with others in your area.
During the 2003 San Diego fires it was a HAM radio operator who was a ward member who was able to deliver the message to evacuate. The 911 system did not notify residents and the office of emergency preparedness was closed as it was a Sunday. Eleven families in that ward lost their homes but thanks to a HAM who was in touch with first responders, no lives were lost.
A good way to learn about it and get your license is to attend a local amateur radio club meeting. See www.arrl.org
• Join with other ham radio operators in an ARES or LDS Emergency Response Communications net. In event of an emergency, there will always be a way to reach first response and relief agencies, and other radio operators in your ward, stake and bishop’s storehouse.
• Family members can communicate by ham radio using battery or generator power, regardless of the condition of phone or power infrastructure. But to be successful, the family emergency plan needs to include a list of frequencies and times to communicate. Operators need to know their radios well, and practice to get experience.
• In an emergency, radio repeaters may or may not be working on backup power. Be prepared to communicate directly in simplex mode.
• Take care that you have effective antennas. A good base station antenna at home, and a magnetic mount (or better) antenna for the car. Rubber duck antennas on handheld radios are not enough. A bigger antenna is needed to get better range.
These are just beginning thoughts for your family emergency plan. You will need to do some real homework to be truly ready, but your preparations will give peace of mind and confidence that you will know what to do under severe circumstances. Nothing will provide more relief from the stress of being separated, than knowing that you have a family emergency plan that will work in the worst conditions. Even if separated by miles and obstacles, you have the means to communicate, and every member of the family knows what to do until you are reunited.
Follow Carolyn’s blog at: https://blog.TotallyReady.com have questions answered, purchase her books, and join the Totally Ready yahoo group. Be sure to tune in to Ready Or Not every Tuesday night at 6:00pm Pacific Time. Join Carolyn on October 12th for a discussion with a teen age prepper!
Next week October 5th join Carolyn for a conversation with Meridian Magazine’s own Maurine and Scot Proctor. Be sure to have your questions ready as they discuss the earthquake in Haiti.