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When a Disaster Strikes
By Sarah Anderson
Another important aspect of being ready for a disaster is to know what to do and how to act if and when a disaster strikes. Knowing the procedures and being able to act quickly will save precious minutes in times of disaster.
If the authorities instruct you to evacuate, do it fast. Listen to the radio or television for the location of emergency shelters and for additional instructions from local emergency officials.
As you leave to your home, keep the following in mind:
- Wear protective clothing.
- Take your disaster supplies kit.
- Use travel routes specified by local authorities. Avoid using shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous to cross.
If the emergency occurs while you are at home, follow these steps to assure safety for you and family:
Check for fires, electrical, and other household hazards. Search the house and check for damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches.
Spilled bleach, gasoline, and other flammable liquids may produce deadly fumes, and when chemicals mix they can release flammable vapors presenting a serious fire or health hazard.
If you must, use portable generators but be cautious. Make sure generators are installed and operated outdoors, in a well-ventilated area. Before refueling a generator make sure it has cooled down.
Whenever you suspect a fire hazard, contact your local fire department for instructions immediately. Your local fire department will also be able to assist with information regarding cleanup of spilled chemicals.
To prevent additional dangers presented by gas, sniff for gas leaks. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, evacuate the building quickly.
Many disaster-related emergencies cause power malfunctions. If power is down, be
sure to stay away from downed power lines as they might become unsafe and present
electrocution hazards. Call your local power company to check the status of your local grid.
Turn off all major appliances to prevent overloads to power lines when power is restored, leading to a second outage.
In cold weather drain pumps, supply lines, and plumbing systems such as traps in drains, sinks, and washing machines that can freeze when the power is down. Avoid burst pipes, close the main water valve and open the spigots and supply lines to drain them.
When a disaster strikes, use your communication plan and call your out-of-town contacts. Keep in mind that you may have trouble getting through due to busy phone lines or the telephone system may be down altogether. Simply be patient and consistent, try calling again every couple of minutes.
For more information, please check your emergency action checklist and follow the checklist step by step.
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