Emergency Preparedness-The First 24 hours
I must have a death wish. Or a desire to be near a catastrophe. Nothing else explains why I live in a veritable Bermuda triangle of potential natural disasters.
|Day 1-fun times, great pics|
“We have potentials for an earthquake (the fault lines), volcanic eruptions (Mt. Rainier), mudslides and flooding (everywhere) and tsunamis (the coastline),” said the Fire chief of the City of Issaquah. Twelve of us women sat with pencils and notebooks, as if we were going to save our communities and selves if any of these were to occur. “Worse, we aren’t allowed to get to you if you happen to live in a small neighborhood.”
At that point, I should have got my sweatpant-wearing self off the chair and left the room. For what was the point? I thought. My tiny 16-home community wasn’t even officially incorporated. We are on a community well that barely has enough power to satisfy daily requirements.
When me and my siblings earned our driver’s license, my mom put a 72-hour backpack in our car. It was for “emergencies,” she said. It had food, one of those shiny blankets that could withstand arctic temperatures. Wipes. Toilet paper and scissors. Aspirin and gauze. You name, that backpack had it. I kept in my car for twenty years, periodically changing the battery on the flashlight and rotating out the food.
Mom also had a two year supply of food in the basement, ready to go at a moments notice should the next seven-year drought occur (next following the first, as noted in the Bible a’la Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors fame). That too, was good advice. I keep a three-month supply of food in the downstairs laundry room and have three fridges. Rog is a supporter because he grew up with little food, and as a result is a bit of a food horder, thus the recent addition of a squat freezer in the garage.
I had my 72 hour kit, I told the chief, a generator and some food. I felt pretty good, I said.
The first chief looked at me with a bit of pity. “We won’t get to your home for at least two to four weeks if we have a real emergency.” In that time, he said, I’d likely have no heat, no water, no gas, run out of food, the gas stations would be dry, the grocery stores locked due to no lighting, and we’d be in a world of hurt.
“Get yourself a first response program,” he advised all in the room. “Do it now.”
|Day 9-irritating, have to move
to the trailer-out of wood for the stove
and gas for the generator
That lecture was given six years ago, and in that time, the area has indeed had flooding and multiple power outages, some lasting nearly three weeks. We were lucky, as in, prepared. We had a lot of gas, two generators (a primary and a backup) but we learned a few things. The first is that our home cranks through a LOT of gas on a generator. We cut down heat everywhere, lit our handy-dandy camping lights and used the ovens sparingly. However, two weeks in to a power outage two years ago (where we had 3 feet of snow btw), we’d have been toast had it not been for a travel trailer we’d purchased on a whim. That thing ran for weeks on two small tanks of propane. We ditched our home to live in our driveway, cozy and cramped, until the state of emergency had ended.
The fire chief had been right on everything else. We had no gas (it eventually ran out), and we heard that no gas stations were open due to lack of electricity. The grocery stores were closed, the motels full up (those that had electricity that is) and entire swaths of high-rise apartments requiring propane were ice cold. Our small community had one more challenge, and that was we couldn’t make it down our steep hill, paved though it was. As an unincorporated road, the city was under no obligation to maintain it. It was over a week until the first cars made it down. (Side note: we have tractors up here, almost all homes have at least 1 4wheel drive, but it didn’t matter. The road was simply dangerous).
|Day 15-no snow melt and we
are stir crazy but warm in the trailer
watching Disney movies
As uncomfortable as we were, some neighbors had it worse. At least we retained the wood burning fireplace in our home, and it while we remained inside, the house was very toasty. (but we were dumb. We hadn’t stocked up enough wood and went through what we had within days). Neighbors with neither wood-burning nor another alternative were literally freezing, and huddled up with us and one another. It was quite an eye-opener.
Since that time, State of Washington created a program called Map Your Neighborhood. Statistically speaking, most deaths occur in the first 24 hours after a disaster–the very time when response crews and personnel are completely overwhelmed.
MYN created a video to talk about the ways a “neighborhood” defined as 15-25 homes, can prepared. Although not all states have such a program, this one is easy to implement anywhere in the world. Actual materials can be purchased–and by materials, I’m talking the booklet that is a step-by-step checklist of the neighborhood requirements (e.g. chainsaw, generator etc).
Imagine if the folks in Chile had been able to band together after the recent disaster. This inevitably happened when the looting and rioting took over as the disaster overwhelmed the police and fireman. Much of the world lives in areas prone to the devastating forces of nature. Being prepared now can save lives.
A few highlights of the program and how-to:
1-hold a mtg w/the neighborhood homeowners/renters etc. (this works just as well w/apartments/condos/etc)
2-go through the checklist and identity the available tools and skills (who is handy with a welder, who has chainsaws to cut down trees etc)
3-assign “leaders” for critical check items. For instance, one person double-checks all the natural gas in the homes have been turned off. This is a huge risk factor that can wipe out homes and families in one explosion. Another key assignment is a ‘safe home’ suitable for the elderly or children, if relevant. Back-up power, heat, food storage etc are other critical components.
4-review when and where to place the Need Help sign found in the MYN booklet. This page can be torn out and pasted on a window in front. It immediately identifies to other neighbors and/or emergency personnel if you are in need.
5-hold annual meetings to update the information, ensure tools are working and in good condition (generators in particular).
It’s not very time consuming, and I’m a major advocate of this program. I’m currently working to deploy this through community associations and church organizations as a means to getting neighborhoods on board. It’s a small effort for a major, life-saving result. The key is to do it before the disaster strikes.