September is national Emergency Preparedness month. According to the WMO* Economic losses due to natural disasters have increased sevenfold from the 1970s to 2019. The reported losses from 2010–2019 (US$ 383 million per day on average) were seven times the amount reported from 1970–1979 (US$ 49 million). Storms were the most prevalent cause of damage, resulting in the largest economic losses around the world. The top 10 disasters, leading to the most human loss worldwide have been droughts (650,000 deaths), storms (577,232 deaths), floods (58,700 deaths) and extreme temperature (55,736 deaths).
How informed are you and how prepared? The following 24 questions are just a very brief survey to help you evaluate your preparations. Answer all the questions first and then read and study the answers.
- Which state(s) have never experienced an earthquake?
- Which countries have never experienced an earthquake?
- Which states have had earthquakes great than 7.0?
- Which state(s) have never experienced a tornado?
- During a power outage name three ways to provide light.
- During a power outage how will you get information? Name three.
- Which disasters can happen in any city?
- If your home were without water for a day or two, what would you do?
- Do you have an out of state contact person.
- What is the first thing you should tell a 911 operator?
- Where do wildfires happen?
- What documents do you need for a disaster claim with FEMA?
- What are the three stages of personal response following a disaster?
- What steps can you take to improve your emotional response to a disaster.
- Do you have emergency phone numbers posted?
- Do you have an emergency binder?
- Do you have cash on hand?
- Do you have food stored in all food groups?
- Do you have food storage that is NOT dehydrated or freeze dried?
- Does everyone in the family have a five-day kit and know where they are stored?
- Do you have a first aid manual with your first aid kits and in your auto, workplace, and five-day kits.
- What is most likely to happen during a recession?
- What is most often forgotten during an evacuation?
- Name three things to take to an emergency shelter?
- Wisconsin is the only state that has never experienced an earthquake.
- Data compiled by the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the number of earthquakes per year has seen increasing frequency.
Antarctica, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Andorra, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Malta, and Barbados have the fewest earthquakes, in that order. All countries have experienced earthquakes. Countries with the most earthquakes, in order beginning with the most: China, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Japan, Peru, United States, and Italy. This is important information not only if you live in these areas but also if you plan to visit.
- A 7.0 earthquake and above will cause significant damage. We often think of the west coast being the most dangerous for earthquakes, but several states have had 7.0 and above quakes. California, Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Hawaii all have had the honor. One of the largest, the 1811 New Madrid earthquake began with an initial earthquake of 7.2–8.2 magnitude on December 16, 1811, followed by a magnitude 7.4 aftershock on the same day. The quake was centered on the border of Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The quake was felt as far away as Boston and was felt in an area of 50,000 square miles. As with all disasters remember if it has happened anytime in the past, it can happen again.
- Alaska is the only state to never have experienced a tornado. After publishing articles, I have been told “tornadoes don’t happen here” or “hurricanes don’t happen here”. I was told hurricanes do not happen in New Jersey after I wrote an article remembering my hurricane experience as a child in New Jersey, then hurricane Sandy happened!
- Flashlights and headlamps seem to be the first items we think of when considering a power outage but there are other options, some better and some cheaper.
Glow sticks do not require batteries, are child safe and provide light for 8-12 hours making them perfect for night lights.
Candles provide a soft light but can be dangerous if tipped over and scented candles should never be used. When using candles be sure they are contained in a glass container.
Plug in flashlights are great for unexpected outages as they will come on as soon as the power fails allowing family members to walk around without injury as other light sources are located.
Outdoor solar lights are battery free and can be used all night and recharged outdoors or in a window during the day.
Battery operated candles can be used for soft lighting in corners or along hallways or on stairways. They often have timers so they can be set to turn on a sunset.
How many of these options do you have?
- Texts from city government, battery/solar powered radio, HAM radio, family or friends who live outside the affected area are all good sources. Make connections now. Sign up for local alerts, purchase a battery/solar powered radio and charge it now, make friends with a HAM radio operator, and be sure to have the phone numbers of out of area friends and family recorded in your emergency binder. Cell towers may fail making it crucial you have important phone numbers recorded on paper. Never plan for your cell phone to be charged and ready to go. They will eventually need charging leaving you without the information stored on them.
- Flooding, firestorms, terrorist attacks, chemical spills, civil unrest, power outages, drought, can all happen in any neighborhood. No one is safe from these.
- If you are without drinking water, do not drink caffeinated or carbonated drinks, they will increase thirst. Juice and the water or juice in canned fruit and vegetables are all good alternatives for staying hydrated. Washing up at school, the office, or visiting family or friends are all possibilities for showers and using the bathroom if they are close and unaffected by the outage. Hopefully you have plenty of water stored for drinking and flushing. Remember no water is bad water. If water has become contaminated with bugs or mold it can still be used to flush or water a garden.
- If you do not already have a contact person, arrange for one now. A contact person should live at least 70 miles away, making it less likely to be involved in the same emergency. Your contact should have a phone tree available to make calls for you to family and friends to report on your condition, a copy of your important documents, a willingness to house your family if you can get there and a recent photo of each family member. Be sure your children know your contact person and practice calling them just in case your children are separated from you during an emergency.
- Your location is the most important information in the event your call gets dropped or interrupted. The next information to give should be the nature of the call which will help determine who the 911 operator sends. If there is an intruder the help 911 sends will be very different than for a fire or medical emergency. After this information wait and answer the questions the operator will ask. Don’t delay help by giving information not needed.
- Everywhere. On the morning of Sept. 8, 2020, fire swept through the Rogue Valley within a matter of hours, destroying more than 2,600 homes between Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, and Medford. It was the most destructive wildfire in Oregon’s recorded history. It happened in town.
The Colorado wildfire that swept through suburban areas between Denver and Boulder on Dec. 30, 2021, was among the most destructive in the state’s history, destroying over 1,000 homes and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. It happened in town. (Our handmade Christmas ornaments will go to these survivors this year)
- When filing a claim with FEMA you will need photo ID, Social Security number, insurance information, (coverage for homeowners, flood, automobile, boat, mobile home or any insured items that were lost to the disaster), description of the damage caused, financial information, your total annual household income (before taxes), contact information, and proof of residency such as a driver’s license with the address of the home lost. A post office box is not acceptable but a utility bill or other official correspondence with your address will be.
- We all experience them, the stages that challenge us during a disaster. First, disbelief, we cannot believe this is happening to us. We see this when people are advised to evacuate, and they don’t, they really don’t believe it could happen to them. Next, we move on to the frozen stage. We just don’t seem to be able to make decisions and to formulate a plan. If this stage takes too long you may lose your chance to succeed and escape. Finally, stage three, we move on to taking action. Those who have thought about and planned for a disaster will move quickly from stage one to stage three. They will thrive.
- Beside thinking through disasters and planning for them, what can you do to move quickly from stage one to stage three? Talk about disasters often and in positive ways. When there is a disaster on TV, ask family members what they think people should do. Next, practice your plan. Hold a mock evacuation or throw the breakers and experience a power outage for a day or two. My children often asked me how I knew how to do something. The answer was always the same, practice. Hold drills or just talk thru scenarios during dinner. Be sure you allow kids to ask questions and reassure them you are a prepared family, because of this you have superpowers to deal with any challenge. With preparation even children will progress quickly from stage one to stage three, and they will be a huge help moving forward with your plan.
- Calling 911 is an option for severe emergencies but for smaller emergencies you will not want to rely on numbers programed into your cell phone. There are times when you are not home and someone else, children, babysitter, grandparents, for example may need to call for help. Post numbers in a convenient place for: family, neighbors, clergy, work numbers for mom and dad, even cell phone numbers for mom and dad. Be sure all family and visitors know where numbers are posted.
- During an emergency, a binder filled with instructions, tips, and tricks, will be worth more than any other item in your home. Stress may block you from thinking clearly and remembering all you know. Power outages will remove the possibility of getting answers online. Be sure to add important documents to your binder as no one can provide those except you. If purchasing a binder be sure it includes information for all emergencies you may deal with and reliable tips for preparing ahead of time and dealing once the challenge arrives. The Totally Ready binder can be found at Totallyready.com.
- Always have small bills on hand. Cash should be in $1.00, $5.00 and $10.00 denominations, nothing larger. Consider how much cash may be needed to determine how much should be kept in kits and around the house. You will need food, water, shelter, clothing, gasoline and more. If you do not have cash, you will be left wanting when credit cards cannot be used.
- For optimal health, all food groups must be present in your General Store. Each group provides different nutrients with all being important especially during a time of stress.
- Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods need lots and lots of water, canned foods do not. Never rely on freeze-dried and dehydrated alone. For these foods store 3-4 times the water you would normally store.
- Everyone should have their own kit, even toddlers. Purchase a very small backpack and add a stuffed toy, granola bar, whistle, t shirt, glow stick and a few small items. Be sure to include an ID card including important phone numbers, medical information, allergies, and other important information in case you become separated. Children feel safer and in control when they have their own packs just like the adults and big kids.
- Small first aid manuals can be ordered online for less than $2.00. Old Boy Scout manuals are also great but they are more bulky so not the best for kits.
- Job loss or employers limiting working hours as well as higher interest rates are the most serious results of a recession. Two months of no growth signal a recession. This is true today. Do you have savings to pay your mortgage, car and other payments on hand for three months?
- Most often forgotten when evacuating are wallets and purses, especially by those not driving. Children most often forget shoes. This is why we recommend placing shoes, a whistle, a light source and purse and/or wallet under or next to the bed when sleeping. Disasters don’t just happen in daylight hours.
- Always take your kits, food, water, important documents, ID, medications, toilet paper, phone charger. For a more complete list see Totally Ready Binder.
*WMO (World Meteorlogical Organization) Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970–2019)
Carolyn is always available to answer questions and share tips at Totallyready.com and on Facebook. For those wanting information or to participate creating Christmas ornaments for disaster survivors visit Operation Christmas Ornaments on Facebook and on Carolyn’s blog.
Catch Carolyn on Annette on America:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrFKyecixeo (prepping for blackouts and civil unrest)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO_XUJMC008 (prepping for recession)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjtEdX0h2OA&t=2507s (prepping for inflation)