Prep for Mother Nature

No matter where a person lives in the country, he or she can be affected by extreme weather and the potential for disaster that comes with it. The best way to reduce one’s chances of injury or death, and the destruction of property, is to prepare for Mother Nature’s extremes. Unfortunately, most weather conditions vary in the type of preparation needed. One common theme is the need for both an emergency and a first aid kit. The emergency kit should contain supplies such as a battery-operated radio and flashlight, blankets, bottled water, a can opener, spare shoes, cash, and canned foods. Both should be kept in an area that is easily accessible during the emergency. In addition to creating an emergency kit and buying a first aid kit, people should learn what to do in order to stay safe during any of the extreme weather conditions that are common in the U.S.

Hurricane (Tropical Cyclone)
Preparing for a hurricane involves obtaining the right insurance for the home, making a relocation plan with the family, and taking steps to protect one’s home. When there is a hurricane warning, people in immediate danger are often advised to evacuate. When preparing for this type of disaster, people should learn where public shelters for tropical cyclones are located, or make plans to relocate to the homes of friends or family who live inland. This will allow people to move quickly and without hesitancy when instructed to evacuate. People with pets will also need to locate pet-friendly hotels as most public shelters do not allow animals. People should also ensure that their vehicles are fueled up at all times during hurricane season. It is also important to buy and store material to board up and protect windows, such as plywood. Another alternative is to purchase storm shutters for the home. Trees and other plants with branches should be kept trimmed to prevent branches from flying into the home.


Earthquake
Tremors from earthquakes can result in damage to one’s home and belongings. In extreme cases, earthquakes have caused buildings to collapse and have even caused other natural disasters such as tsunamis. Prepare for earthquakes by moving all breakable items from high locations to lower shelves in enclosed cabinets. Move hanging mirrors, pictures, etc. away from the bed, sofa, or any seating, and secure televisions, computers and other electronics. People should also inspect their homes for cracks in the foundation or along any of the walls, and check for defective gas connections. Everyone within a household should be taught what to do during an earthquake, and they should know the safest places to seek shelter. Ideally these locations are under a sturdy table or a desk that is away from windows or any other breakable object. Every adult and teen within a household should also learn how to turn off the gas and electricity.


Flood
Flooding can swiftly destroy property and take away lives, often with very little warning. In preparing for a flood, people will want to make certain adjustments to their homes, particularly if they live in a flood zone. One of the first things that a person should do is to obtain flood insurance that will cover the damages caused by flooding and rising waters that are not covered by a homeowner’s insurance plan. Some people who live in floodplains may consider raising their homes above flood level or having a retaining wall constructed. These are expensive options and are not affordable measures for everyone. People living in areas that are high risk will also want to elevate their electric panel, water heater, and furnace above flood level. They may also prevent the backup of flood waters into their home drains by installing check valves.


Tornado
A tornado is a devastating act of nature involving destructive winds of more than 250 miles per hour. Preparing for this storm, which is characterized by the funnel shape cloud that reaches downward to touch the ground, involves pre-designating an area to seek shelter and performing practice drills. An ideal shelter location is underground; however, a room in the interior portion of the home on the lowest level is an alternative option. Some people may prepare by building a safe room above ground. These types of rooms are built to withstand tornado strength winds and projectiles. People will want to store their emergency supplies and first-aid kit in their safe room or in other shelter locations, particularly a battery-operated radio, water and food. They should also prepare by locating shelter areas when away from home, such as the designated shelter area in a mall or at work.


Blizzards and Ice Storm
When preparing for a blizzard or ice storm, people should consider what they will need if they are unable to leave their home for several days. This means stocking up on additional water and food. If a person takes medication, he or she will want an additional prescription on hand. To prepare for a power outage, an alternate heat source is necessary. A fireplace with additional wood, a wood or pellet stove, or a kerosene heater are all options. For the snow, purchase rock salt and a snow shovel to keep on hand. In addition to preparing at home, people must also prepare their cars. If a person is unable to drive further in the snow for some reason and must remain in his or her vehicle, there should be a winter emergency kit on hand. This kit should include dried or canned food, water, blankets, a battery operated flashlight and batteries, tire chains, a collapsible shovel, and sand or cat litter. To help melt snow for water, matches should also be on hand along with a cup or can. Prior to the cold season, cars should be fully serviced, worn tires replaced and antifreeze added if needed.


Thunderstorm
Preparing for a thunderstorm means learning what to do when there is one, and teaching this to one’s family. For example, people should know to come indoors if they see a lightning strike and are able to hear thunder before they can count to thirty. It also involves the removal of trees that are rotting or that are dead; doing this will reduce the chance of them falling during the storm. Put up shutters, blinds, or shades in windows. When a storm is expected, outdoor objects should be secured against winds that may accompany the thunderstorm.

Drought
To prepare for a drought, inspect faucets and pipes to ensure that there are no leaks or drips. These should be repaired immediately to not only save water, but money, as well. Aerators that are equipped with flow restrictors may be fitted on all faucets in the home and water-efficient appliances should be purchased whenever new appliances are purchased for use in the home. Families should also discuss ways that they can conserve water when a drought is in effect.
Temperature (Heat Wave & Cold Wave)
During both the summer and the winter months temperatures can turn extreme. When this happens people run the risk of serious illness and even death. In these situations, staying healthy and comfortable is the objective. In areas that are known for hot weather conditions, one should purchase an air conditioner and electric, oscillating fans. Bottled water should also be kept on hand, both at home and in one’s car. Purchasing lightweight clothing is also important. For cold waves, people will want to have blankets for warmth, wood for a fireplace or a kerosene lamp with additional kerosene. Clothing that can be layered for warmth is also important.

Fires
Preparing for a fire can save the lives of family members, friends, and pets. Proper preparation may even save one’s home from being destroyed from wildfires. People who live in areas that are high-risk for wildfires should plant trees and shrubbery that are resistant to fire around their home. Wood on decks, roofs, and home exteriors should be treated with fire-retardant. They should also research alternate routes leading from their home. This will ensure that people have a way to leave if their usual path is blocked by fire or some other object. They should also purchase garden hoses that are long enough to reach around the house when connected. Important documents should be kept together in a location that is easily accessible in the event of a wildfire and evacuation. To prepare for a home fire, people should identify escape routes from each room of the house. Conduct fire drills to ensure that everyone living in the home remembers these escape routes and knows what to do and not do during a fire. A meeting spot away from the home, such as across the street or at a neighbor’s house should be designated so that everyone can meet and be accounted for. Smoke detectors should be placed on every floor of the house and tested monthly. Detectors that are ten years or older should be replaced; however, people should always follow the manufacturer’s replacement suggestions if available.

By Scott Shrum