Have you ever looked into your state’s disaster recovery plan? Or even checked to see if they have one? I don’t know about all states, but my state does have one. And if you look into it, it has some pretty scary stuff.
I first encountered my state’s Resilience Plan about three years ago and there were some time frames in there that scared the crap out of me. I wrote an article about earthquake risk and discovered this document. I already had a lot of camping and hiking gear and felt prepared for when basic things go wrong, like losing power for a couple of days. But the time frames in this document are what prompted me to up my prepping game. Here’s what I mean:
Critical Service – Estimated Time to Restore Service
Electricity inland – 1 to 3 months
Electricity in coastal areas – 3 to 6 months
Police and fire stations inland – 2 to 4 months
Drinking water and sewage inland – 1 month to 1 year
Drinking water and sewage in coastal areas – 1 year to 3 years
Top priority highways (partial restoration) inland – 6 to 12 months
Healthcare facilities inland – 18 months
Healthcare facilities in coastal areas – 3 years
Personally, I think the time frames are unrealistic and shorter than what will actually happen. If the highways are’t working, that means there’s no gas. That means the electricity repair vehicles can’t get around to fix things.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is well-armed, but not well-prepared as far as back-up food, camping gear, first-aid supplies, etc. I asked him what he would do in an emergency…would he stay in his small house in the city or get out? Would he stay as long as he could or get out early?
His response was that he planned to load up his car with his guns and stuff and drive to a family’s home in California. Well, I reminded him, if a partial restoration of major highways takes up to a year, how will you cross the rivers with your loads of guns and ammo? That made him think a little bit. Then he planned to fortify in his home until he couldn’t anymore. Then? Who knows.
What is your state telling you about its disaster recovery plan?
Let’s say you’re stuck somewhere for the night. Is it better to stay inside your vehicle or take your in-care gear bag and hustle out of there? Much of this choice depends on your own level of training, the gear you have, and the particular situation you’re in.
Being in a car gives a sense of security, because you’re protected from the elements and have some comfort. But . . . there can be detrimental reasons why you would not want to stay in your vehicle.
The vehicle could become a trap. If you’re surrounded by a mob, you might not have a way to get out.
If there’s a broken window, the car will let in the cold outside air. Can you patch up that broken window with a piece of cardboard or an emergency blanket?
The car holds in the cold. Cars don’t hold in heat, so not staying warm is a real concern. If you’re out of the car, you can possibly gather wood and use your fire starter to make a sheltering fire.
The vehicle is conductive metal. It’s a myth that the rubber tires on a car protect a vehicle from lightning strikes. A fully enclosed metal vehicle is safe, as long as you’re not touching any part of the metal frame in the event that there is a lightning strike–this means no touching door and window handles, steering wheels, gear shifts, etc. In order for this to be effective, the windows must be closed. Vehicles can still be damaged by a strike.
Close off part of the space. An emergency blanket doesn’t take up much space and they’re cheap. Get a few extra a keep them in the car. You can use these to close off the back or front of your car’s space to make it easier to stay warm. Plus, you might have extra people in your car (kid’s birthday party? or whatever) and you’ll need more than one blanket just for yourself.
If you have to vacate your vehicle, is your gear accessible? Get your bag out of the trunk and keep it nearby. Ahead of time, sort through whatever’s in there and make sure you know what’s in there and how to use it.
Think through scenarios. Based on where you live and the weather, think through what might happen and what you need. If it’s rainy or hot, think about those things and prepare for them. If you have to cross bridges to get home, think about what you might do if you can’t use the bridge. Thinking things through helps your brain to be more able to maintain when there really is an emergency.
The news reports we are hearing of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey are heartbreaking. Tens of thousands of people in coastal areas in Texas have been evacuated from their flooded neighborhoods, if they could get out at all. On NPR a woman spoke of having to wade out of her house in water that was mouth high and that rescuers simply told her to keep her mouth shut as she waded to the boat through the dirty water.
Other people have said that they did not get enough information about how serious the storm would be. They simply did not know the risks they were facing in staying in their home. If they did know the risks, maybe they didn’t truly believe how bad it would be. Some people think that hurricanes are just a joke. I grew up in Florida and I have been through a couple hurricanes when I was younger person. And people who have not experienced hurricanes, as well as people who have been through some less severe hurricanes, can tend to think that the warnings or overblown. So I understand the attitude of “Oh, it’s probably not going to be that bad.”
The media is bad about over-blowing dire warnings. Like, the total solar eclipse in Oregon that happened recently…the state was predicting clogged roads, grocery stores running out of food, gas stations running out of gas, and emergency responders not being able to get through to people. It turned out to not be that bad. So, yeah, I get it.
The problem is, it’s hard to tell when you really will be OK in your home and when you will not be OK in your home. So what can we learn from a disaster like Hurricane Harvey?
Number one.Plan to take care of yourself because no one else will do it.
911 will not answer. The ambulance will not come. The firetruck will not come. Plan ahead to get yourself out of the area on your own with whatever resources you have because, bottom line, in a serious situation help will not come.
If you live in a place that is prone to flooding consider getting a small rowboat. Or a kayak. Or an inflatable raft at the very least that you can keep packaged up in your garage or underneath your bed until the time comes that you need to deploy it.
Stock up on portable food and water. This does not mean cans of soup, jars of peanut butter, and gallon jugs of water. Those are nice to have, but not practical in a flash flood/hurricane situation. Because if you have to leave on that inflatable raft I just mentioned, you will not be taking 50 pounds of food and water with you. This is the time to have water in pouches and high calorie food bars and bricks. Put a few in the bottom of your bag to survive on.
There are shelters in place for the Harvey victims but in the Houston area the news report said there are 10,000 people in the convention center. That is twice as many as the Red Cross planned for. They only planned for 5,000 people. There’s not enough food, not enough blankets and not enough space for the people who are in shelters. Again don’t rely on the government to help.
Remember your pets. Some people were forced to leave their pets behind, although news reports had pictures of people walking out carrying their dogs. No one wants to have to leave their pets behind but if it is a question of your survival or the survival of your family and leaving when you have to leave you, may be forced to make that horrible choice.
If you live in a flood-prone area consider investing in an inflatable life vest for your beloved pets. If you do have to leave them behind the inflatable vest could be their lifesaver. If you are able to take them with you the inflatable vest can make your trek easier. If you have pets an aluminum rowboat would be a better choice than a kayak or inflatable raft for your bug out vessel.
The other thing you must do is keep yourself informed. Many younger people nowadays don’t watch the news and don’t read the newspaper. They may only get their news from Facebook. Their knowledge and awareness of a deadly situation could be very minimal. It is up to you to keep yourself informed. Monitor websites you trust. Don’t just talk to your friends. Download some emergency apps like the one from the Red Cross. Sign up for weather updates from your local news station. Make sure you know what is coming to your area. If the authorities say it is going to serious, heed that warning. It is better to be prepared for an event that does not become life-threatening then to be unprepared for an event that is life-threatening.
In December of 2016, a rash of winter weather swept across Oregon, bringing thick bouts of freezing rain and snow to Lane County. The ice piled onto roads, trees and power lines causing massive power outages and hazardous road conditions. Tens of thousands of people were without lights or heating and many didn’t have a way to leave their homes with trees and wires blocking off roads.
To help out, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office set up a special call center to service people who were going days and in some cases a week without any power or access to essentials. Search and Rescue members and reserve deputies were tasked with helping people who were low on supplies or weren’t able to safely restock. We would also clear debris from the roads we traveled on to make them passable.
There are several things I gained from what I saw on these assignments that are pertinent for everyone.
Three days of supplies is a MINIMUM
You could be without power for days if not weeks depending on the type of area that you live in and what kind of disaster has hit. Consider your need for heating, power, food, water, electronics and medical supplies. You should have a secondary source of heat for your home in case of cold conditions outside. Otherwise, make sure you have warm clothing to help you stay comfortable. You will also need food and water for an extended period of time. You can often buy dry packaged meals and non perishable items wholesale.
Keep important phone numbers close.
Who you gonna call? Not the Ghost Busters. Have numbers for Police/Fire dispatch, utility companies and close friends and family written down and easily accessible.
Follow your local news sources and government social media and web pages.
When disaster strikes, these sources will list the locations of shelters and other hubs for people who need assistance. Knowing where these are can help when your home runs out of supplies, or if you can’t return home when a disaster cuts off means of transportation.
Have a means to clear your area.
Severe weather means falling trees and other debris. Several of the roads I traveled while making supply drops had branches or trees completely or partially blocking the way and needed a chainsaw to clear out. Of course, many people will think that public works crews will get rid of the problem. But in a disaster, emergency and utility crews will have a prioritized task list in their response, and your personal property may not be high on the list. Also, are responsible for clearing debris from your personal property. You may need to help your neighborhood by clearing out your street to help you and your neighbors travel. You never know how long it will be before crews are able to start servicing your area. A shovel should be the start of your list of tools along with a handsaw. If you live in an area with large trees, a chainsaw and extra fuel should also be a consideration.
Have a plan for your family.
Schools will often be closed or delayed after severe weather. What are your kids going to do if they don’t have class and the power is out? There’s a chance that you will still need to go to work if school is cancelled.
Prep your vehicle
Your car needs to be ready for the weather. Make sure you have the tires you need to get through the rough seasons. An ice scraper should be within reach to clear your windshield and windows. You should also have a go bag with supplies to make it home if you’re vehicle is rendered in operable. You should also keep a blanket in case you’re snowed in but don’t want to leave the protection of your car.
In snow, keep chains and a bag of cat litter or grave; in your car at all times even when you think you won’t need it.
While storms that spawn tornadoes are thought of as being primarily a spring thing, because the majority of tornadoes occur from April through June. But the reality is that tornadoes can happen at any time of year. In fact, an F-2 tornado just ripped through an industrial park in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on August 25. If you live in a tornado zone, then how to survive a tornado is something you probably grew up preparing for. People visiting a tornado-prone area or just driving through, however, may not know what to do.
And, just because you don’t live in “tornado alley” is no reason to be complacent–tornadoes have touched down in all 50 states. In 2012, twin tornadoes touched down in Brooklyn and Queens in New York in September, with winds of about 70 mph. An F-4 tornado occurred at 10,000 feet in northwest Wyoming on July 21, 1987. Although that was a rare meteorological event, never assume that just because you’re at a high altitude that you don’t need to be aware of the weather. Tornadoes can occur whenever and wherever conditions are right.
Modern measurements use a system called the Enhanced Fujita Scale for rating the intensity of tornadoes. The scale is named after Dr. Ted Fujita, a storm scientist at the University of Chicago who developed the sale in 1971. The scale ranges from F-0 to F-5, with 5 being the most severe storm. Approximate wind speeds for each category range from 65 to 85 mph for F-0 to greater than 200 mph for F-5.
Damage That Can Be Expected
According to Weather.com, the following chart summarizes the damage that can be expected from a tornado at each level of intensity.
Wind speeds: 65 to 85 mph
Typical Observations: Light damage. Peels surface off some roofs; some damage to gutters or siding; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over.
Wind speeds: 86 to 110 mph.
Typical Observations: Moderate damage. Roofs severely stripped; mobile homes overturned or badly damaged; loss of exterior doors; windows and other glass broken.
Wind speeds: 111 to 135 mph.
Typical Observations: Considerable damage. Roofs torn off well-constructed houses; foundations of frame homes shifted; mobile homes completely destroyed; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; cars lifted off ground.
Wind speeds:136 to 165 mph.
Typical Observations: Severe damage. Entire stories of well-constructed houses destroyed; severe damage to large buildings such as shopping malls; trains overturned; trees debarked; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown; structures with weak foundations blown away some distance.
Wind speeds: 166 to 200 mph.
Typical Observations: Devastating damage. Whole frame houses Well-constructed houses and whole frame houses completely leveled; cars thrown and small missiles generated.
Wind speeds: more than 200 mph.
Typical Observations: Incredible damage. Strong frame houses leveled off foundations and swept away; automobile-sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 m (109 yd); high-rise buildings have significant structural deformation; incredible phenomena will occur.
About 1,200 tornadoes hit the United States each year. The energy of a tornado is concentrated in a relatively small area perhaps only a hundred yards across. In the U.S. tornadoes are most common in the central plains of North America, east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Appalachian Mountains. They also occur in other parts of the world. They usually occur during the late afternoon and early evening. Winds that reach 300 mph can rip homes to shreds and even strip asphalt from pavement, pick up cars like toy blocks and send dangerous objects like tree limbs flying through the air. Tornadoes can only be predicted to a limited extent. People describe the sound of a tornado as that of a very loud train or jet engine.
Tornadoes can occur whenever the surface temperature is much warmer than the air higher up. Warm air near the surface rises and carries with it condensation, which leads to clouds and thunderstorms. If the winds are right, a tornado is possible.
Learn how to recognize the cloud formations and weather conditions that are likely to lead to tornadoes. These are wall clouds, although a wall cloud is not always present. You may also not be able to see a wall cloud depending on your angle of view. A wall cloud is a cloud that forms below a thunderstorm cloud and abruptly lowers. A funnel cloud often extends from the base of a cloud and looks like a rotating cone. If the funnel cloud touches the ground it becomes a tornado. However, some tornadoes may not have a funnel cloud.
Tornado Watches and Tornado Warnings
A “tornado watch” means severe, tornado-producing weather is possible over a period of a few hours. You need to be alert, and be prepared to seek shelter if tornadoes happen or a warning is issued. A “tornado warning” means that a tornado has been spotted, or that Doppler radar shows a thunderstorm circulation which can spawn a tornado. When a tornado warning is issued for your area, seek safe shelter immediately.
How to Survive a Tornado
Tornadoes travel at around 10 to 20 mph, even if their wind speed is much greater than that. Outrunning on one foot is not possible, but in a car, if you have advance warning that it’s coming, you have a chance. Try and gauge the tornado’s movement and direction and drive away only if you’re sure the tornado is not coming towards you. Drive away at a right angle to the direction the tornado is moving–in other words, in a direction that puts the most distance between you and the tornado.
If you’re stuck in a car, the Red Cross recommends getting off the road, parking the car, and slouching down low in your seat while still keeping your seat belt on. Lean away from the windows and cover your head with something to keep broken glass off you.
Seek strong shelter or at least take some cover like covering yourself with a mattress or a sturdy desk. The biggest danger is flying debris. If you’re in a house or building with a basement, go there. Some buildings may have storm shelters. Use them. If you aren’t sure where to go, go to an interior room or bathroom, far from windows. Crouch, covering your head and face.
If you’re outside, like flat on the ground or in a ditch. Try to pick a spot away from trees and buildings. If you’re driving, consider getting out of your car and running to safe place, because a twister can easily pick up a car and throw it like it’s nothing. Trying to get under and overpass or bridge is not a good idea, either. A tornado could collapse the bridge.
Using this practical guide to saying safe in a lightning storm while camping may save your life. Lightning can strike anywhere when a storm breaks out. Depending on where you’re located outdoors, a thunderstorm could be potentially dangerous.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that there is no safe outdoor place during a lightning storm. Their motto is, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors.” If that’s not possible, follow these tips to lessen your risk of lightning related injury.
Do whatever you can to avoid setting up your tent under an isolated tree, or the tallest one. Stay away from broad open areas, high peaks, ridges, hilltops, elevated terrain, and metal fences. As pleasing as these camping spots might be, if a storm sweeps through, you’re not safe in your tent. Lightning is attracted to higher ground and tall objects. Research shows that lightning can be fatal up to about 30 feet from where a lightning strike hits the ground.
If you hear thunder, that means lightning is within striking distance. Leave your tent for a safer location immediately. Your safest bet is a fully constructed building with plumbing and wiring to ground out a strike, or an all-metal automobile (not a convertible). If you do shelter in a car, avoid touching the external metal of the car or the car parts that make contact with the external metal, such as the steering wheel or door handle.
If you’re in the backcountry and there are no buildings, move to lower ground and avoid the things that attract lightning. Also, if you’re camping in an open area, set up in a valley, ravine, or other low area.
Unsafe Structures and Buildings
Some structures you may encounter while camping are unsafe, such as picnic shelters and outhouses. The shelters have open sides and lack a method to ground lighting strikes. Outhouses don’t have the wiring or plumbing to ground the lightning strike.
Seek shelter in a low-lying area. Steer clear of tall objects like trees, electric poles, wires, and fences. It’s also advised you keep your distance from wet items, ropes, metal objects, and water. While these things don’t attract lightning, they’re prime conductors of electricity! The current from a lighting flash has the ability to travel far distances.
Wait Until it’s Safe To Go Back
Once the thunderstorm is over, wait at least 30 minutes before returning to your camping area or resuming your hike. Stay in a safe location for 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
A large number of people have been killed because they didn’t wait long enough after the storm before resuming outdoor activities. Similarly, many people were struck by lightning because they did not seek shelter soon enough.
If in a Group, Spread Out
If you’re camping in a group, don’t huddle together even though that may be comforting. Spread out to avoid the lightning’s current traveling between people.
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Floods are the most common natural disaster in the country. They can also be deadly if you’re unprepared.
It only takes a few inches of fast-moving water to knock down a person or lift a vehicle. If flash flooding is expected in your area, don’t risk getting stranded away from home.
1. Know where you’re going and how to get there fast.
If the area is already flooded, don’t try to go through it. Get to higher ground immediately. A car can be swept away by just one foot of moving water.
2. Keep your essential items with you and easy to access.
It is a good idea to keep a survival kit packed with food and drinking water in your vehicle. This kit will definitely come in handy if you’re stranded away from home in your vehicle. It is much safer for you to stay with your vehicle than it is to risk drowning by attempting to drive on a flooded street.
3. Get your information from trusted sources.
If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, pay attention to the National Weather Service reports to find out if floods are anticipated. Flooding may occur due to heavy rainstorms, tropical storms, hurricanes or other events that cause rivers to rise rapidly. Evacuations may be ordered if an extremely dangerous storm is imminent.
4. Get your home ready for any incoming floodwaters.
Prepare your home for flooding by moving important items and documents to the highest point in your home. Unplug your electrical appliances. If flooding is expected, don’t leave your pets at home alone. Flooding can cause roads to be inaccessible and leave you without a route home.
Storms that cause significant flooding often cause other problems. They may cause a widespread power outage or affect the local water supply. Stock your home with plenty of non-perishable food and drinking water. You should also have a flashlight, battery-powered radio and a first aid kit available in case of an emergency.
Don’t get caught unprepared for a disaster. Put together survival kits to keep in your home, office and vehicle. These kits will provide you with the basic tools and supplies that you may need to survive an emergency.
A man put his skills to use so he could survive a monster flood in Springfield, Missouri. Jonathan Whitworth is lucky to be alive after he drove over Wilson’s Creek in West Springfield.
It can happen so fast you don’t even realize the situation.
To hear Jonathan tell it to KSPR Channel 33 News, it was dark and rainy. Once he made it over the bridge, “there was water.” His truck was floating down the river as the front end “started going down and filling up.”
Time was ticking for Jonathan to get out of the truck. He tried opening the door, rolling down windows, but nothing would budge. He then remembered that he had a wrench set in the truck’s back seat. He reached for that to break open a window.
At first Jonathan tried jamming it through the window, but it “just bounced off,” he said. After he hit a second time it made a hole.
Jonathan made it out, but his true tale of survival was only beginning.
Swimming was useless due to powerful currents of water preventing him from moving. Jonathan was repeatedly going underwater in panic mode. He felt helpless and found himself at a point where Wilson’s Creek would determine where he’d wind up next. He saw the bridge and braced for a crash.
According to the article, the water usually was 10-feet below the bridge, but on that night it hit the top of the rails. Jonathan said he reached to the third one up and grabbed it. The fierce water pressure caused his grip to slip and he was stuck against the rock face.
Even then he wasn’t able to hold on long before he was going underwater. He thought sure he was a goner, but his son, Easton, made him determined to not give up. At that point, he took a deep breath and went under. He then popped up on the other side where a massive oak tree was there for him to grab onto until rescue teams arrived.
Surviving Rapid Floodwaters
In this case, the drivers was lucky to have tools in his truck that were accessible. Keep a survival tool in your vehicle that you know you can access quickly.
In rapid floodwaters, swimming isn’t always the best tactic. Try to stay on your back with your feet stretched out in front of you. This way you can protect yourself from hidden dangers.
Stay motivated by thinking of your loved ones. This story shows that you should never think a situation is hopeless. A desire to fight for every opportunity will give you more energy and strength.
Children need to understand what’s expected of them in the event of a sudden disaster from a hurricane, tornado, tsunami, or severe storms.
Depending on a child’s age, he or she might know what natural disasters are and that they can injure people.
There are various resources particularly helpful in educating children on how to handle an emergency situation in the event of a natural disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a parent- and kid-friendly website with information on each disaster’s cause.
Communicate a Plan
Gather you kids together and explain the importance of preparation. Elaborate on what natural disasters you’re most at risk for, how to prepare for them, and how to respond in the crisis. Create an evacuation plan that includes two outside meeting places in case your family members are separated.
One of those areas should be right outside your home, possibly near the mailbox. The other should be outside your neighborhood — maybe at the library or in front of the police station if you can’t get back home.
You also need a shelter-in-place plan. Choose a room with the least windows and doors to serve as the safe room.
Communication is key. Have a list of emergency services numbers and the cell phone, school, and work numbers for all household members easily accessible. It’s also a good idea to use FEMA’s downloadable Family Emergency Planas a reference.
Other factors during emergency planning can be the care of pets, how to turn off utilities, and the disaster plans of your child’s school and your workplace.
Preparing for Disaster
Include your child in the gathering of supplies, food, and gear in the event of natural disaster preparedness. This helps them feel good about participating in helping to protect the family. Adding in your child’s favorite snacks, books, or other small hobbies he or she enjoys will make an emergency a little easier to get through.
Have Disaster Drills
Have disaster drills at home like kids have fire drills at school. Show the kids the drill then have them participate. Depending on which drill you’re practicing, instill in your kids how to warn others of the danger, how to escape from the home, where to meet after escaping, where to “shelter” inside the home, how to contact emergency personnel, and procedures to follow after the disaster. Practice drills on a regular basis then aim to increase speed and urgency once they’re mastered.
There are quite a few ways for you to involve your children in your emergency preparations. Put forth the effort to make planning fun and interesting, and they’ll be more ready to act when time is short.
You need to know the critical steps and how to avoid risking your own life in the process of rescuing someone from a fall through the ice.
If someone falls through ice and you’re the only one who can save the victim, don’t rush to them. Don’t go near the edge of where they are because chances are you’ll fall through as well.
How to Rescue Someone Who Falls Through Ice
1. Shout to the victim and get help by dialing 911. Hopefully you have a phone and a good cell phone connection.
2. Reach for the victim only if you can do it from shore. If not, extend a jumper cable, rope, ladder, or something that will float to the victim. Note, if the person starts to pull you in, release your grip on the object and start over.
One important tip … if a rope is tossed to the victim, have them tie it around themselves in case they’re too weak by the cold ice to grab a hold of it.
3. If you can, find a light boat to push across the ice to the victim. Be sure it’s pushed to the edge of the hole, get into the boat, and pull the victim over the bow.
A good piece of advice is to attach some rope to the boat so that others can help pull you and the person who fell through the ice to safety.
All other rescue techniques should be performed before attempting to venture on the ice to rescue a victim.
If the situation is too dangerous, call 911 and repeatedly reassure the victim that help is on the way. Encourage them to fight to survive. It’s vital you adhere to these safety techniques so the dire situation doesn’t result in two deaths.