In a year when the region has been impacted by a tornado and flooding, and winter with its storms approaching, your home needs to be prepared for the possibility of disasters.
The federal government wants to make the public aware with the observance of National Preparedness Month in September.
Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, commented in a message on the federal website that National Preparedness Month is “an opportunity for us to remind our families, friends, and communities to get ready for disasters and emergencies before they strike. Thinking ahead can save lives.’’
Locally, Susan Griffith, spokeswoman for Fayette County Emergency Management Agency, noted, “Preparedness is key for everybody. While many of our weather events are predicted well ahead of time, the total impact is not known until the situation presents itself.’’
Griffith observed, “From having common items such as flashlights and extra bottled water to planning two ways to and from your home, everyone should be proactive when preparing for any emergency. Preparing for the worst will get you through the less critical times.’’
Remember to make a plan that fits your situation.
Griffith commented, “Everyone has different needs. An elderly couple with a pet will have vastly different needs than a single parent with small children should they need to relocate. Nobody knows the needs of you and your loved ones better than you.’’
It’s a good idea to conduct a review of your home so you can make any necessary structural repairs that might be a problem during a disaster.
Inside, that includes making sure bolts work on your doors to keep them shut and caulking around doors and windows to keep out wind, rain or snow during a storm. Learn how to turn off utilities.
Outside your home, check structures to make sure they’re secure. Trim trees to protect against blown limbs. Remove outdoor furniture.
When there’s a threat of danger, you want to be alert.
One way is with the FEMA app, which can be downloaded to your phone. The app will announce alerts as well as provide emergency safety tips for situations, such as extreme heat, thunderstorms, floods, tornadoes and winter storms.
But Griffith noted, “People often feel safe that their cell phone will take the place of a battery-operated radio or a flashlight, and while that is true, using your phone for all of these purposes depletes your cell battery quickly. Charging that device may become a challenge.’’
So in case of disaster, you would want a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home to keep abreast of alerts. Make sure you have flashlights, also with extra batteries, to provide light for emergencies. Keep portable chargers fully charged when you do need to use your phone.
In addition, Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends these items for a basic emergency supply kit in your home:
Keep a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food. Plan one gallon of water per person per day. Add a can opener. Prepare a first aid kit and a first aid book as well as a whistle to signal for help. Store matches in a waterproof container.
Dust masks will help filter contaminated air. Plastic sheeting and duct tape can prepare a shelter-in-place. Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties can be used for personal sanitation. Have a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities. Keep local maps on hand to prepare for evacuation.
FEMA advises having household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper on hand. When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, this can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and know how to use it.
Store picnic supplies, such as paper cups, plates, plastic utensils and paper towels.
Have paper, pencils and/or pens as well as books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.
FEMA notes you may want to consider having extra prescription medications and glasses, infant formula and diapers, personal hygiene items, pet food and extra water for your pet, important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records stored in a waterproof, portable container as well as cash or traveler’s checks and change.
Homeland Security advises individuals with disabilities talk to your doctor or health care provider about how to prepare if you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity in case of a power outage.
If a power outage strikes, FEMA advises keeping freezers and refrigerators closed, only use generators outdoors and away from windows, do not use a gas stove to heat your home, disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges and have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
The United States Dept. of Agriculture offers tips for food safety before power outages, including freezing water in small plastic storage bags or containers prior to a storm that are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer. Group foods together in the freezer — this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
Don’t forget to have adequate insurance to protect your property and document your home and personal property.
FEMA notes on its website, “You can take photos or videos to help you record your belongings, but be sure to also write down descriptions, including year, make, and model numbers, where appropriate. For valuable items, you may want to have an appraisal to determine the item’s worth. Be sure to store your inventory somewhere it can be easily accessed after a disaster.’’
More information about disaster preparedness is available at www.ready.gov.