Natural disasters, unexpected and sudden, can strip dignity from the living and the dead. How prepared are you? If a major earthquake, forest fire, flood, or other disaster suddenly destroys not only your home, but your city, what will you do?
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It’s all well and good to have a home disaster kit and food and supplies at home, but what if a major catastrophic event happens while you are at work or in your car and you cannot get home because roads are torn up or washed out and bridges collapsed?
Look at what happened in 2011 to Japan - a very rich country - when disaster struck in the form of an earthquake and tsunami. Long after the disaster, Japan struggled to feed and house victims adequately. In many cases, the victims gave up on government help and had to fend for themselves. People were hungry and could not buy food even if a grocery store was open because, not only were their homes destroyed, but they had no money. Power was out and ATM’s did not work. People had to scavenge for food to feed themselves and their families.
Will planning ahead help? You bet!
Always have cash (in small bills) with you and stash some in various locations such as work and in the car. Keep your car’s gas tank as full as possible and never let it drop below half a tank. It takes electricity to pump gas and passable roads to get to an ATM or gas station – neither of which work if the power is out.
Keep a change of clothes and comfortable walking shoes handy at work and in the car (especially if you like to stagger around in stiletto-heeled shoes), along with a small amount of water and food, a flashlight, whistle, portable radio, flares, a basic first aid kit, and extra batteries. If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
If you are indoors when an earthquake strikes, drop, cover, and hold on. Do not try to run out of a structure during strong shaking. It is safer to remain inside a building after an earthquake, unless there is a fire or gas leak. Do not use elevators and be aware that glass from high-rise buildings does not always fall straight down. It sometimes catches a wind current and can travel great distances. If you are not near a strong table or desk, drop to the floor against an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms. If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head with a pillow.
If you are outdoors when an earthquake strikes move to a clear area if you can walk safely. Avoid power lines, buildings, and trees. If driving, pull to the side of the road and stop, but do not stop under overhead hazards. If you are on the beach, move to higher ground because, as most of us know, earthquakes can create tsunamis.
Should you become trapped in debris, move as little as possible. Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief or clothing. Tap on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle if available, so that rescuers can find you. Shout only as a last resort.
What should you do after a disaster:
- Check the people around you for injuries and provide first aid if needed.
- Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger.
- Inspect your home for damage.
- Check for dangerous conditions like gas leaks, fires, and downed power lines.
- If you have fire extinguishers and are trained to use them, put out small fires immediately.
- Turn off the gas only if you smell gas.
- Check phones to be sure they have not shaken off the hook and tied up the line.
Keep all phone calls brief. If you are unsuccessful in completing a call using your cell phone, wait ten seconds before redialing to help reduce network congestion.
Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 911.
Horrible disasters happen – everywhere, every day, no country is immune. Emergency services may be overwhelmed and unable to assist you. Be as prepared and self-sufficient as possible. Your life may depend upon it.