-By Jess Wade, HOA Board member
How to Prepare Your Home for an Emergency
Let’s face it. We’ve all heard, ad nauseum, about a “go kit.” Also, the importance of having an “emergency plan” (for that local emergency on the night of October 20th when Town Creek was spared?). However, when disaster does strike, the last thing we want to think about is where the spare batteries are, whether our perishables are still edible, and how we’re going to pull together all those important documents.
So, one last plea this year…use the following top tips adapted from Good Housekeeping Research Institute to make sure you and your family are ready for most any situation at home or at work (think Houston floods, Joplin, MO tornado, Oklahoma City bombing, West, TX explosion, etc., etc.).
1. Be ready. Pack a “Go Bag” now
If you must leave your home or office in a hurry, you’ll want to have essentials packed and ready to go. Keep the following supplies, recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in a portable container in the area of your house where you’ll take shelter. Additionally, having a one-person “go bag” in your car or in the office is a good idea:
- Three days’ worth of food and water (at least a gallon per family member per day) for drinking and hygiene purposes
- Battery powered (or hand crank) flashlights and radio
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Trash bags and duct tape, along with a dust mask
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Regional maps (your cell phone or GPS may not be working)
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger
- Moist towelettes and any personal sanitation or specific family needs, like pet supplies
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start. We also suggest having smaller versions of your kit stocked with a few necessities like walking shoes, energy bars, and a flashlight at work. You’ll also be smart to have enough cash on hand for five days of basic needs. Any amount of ready money will help when ATMs are down. Every family’s needs will be different so put some thought into it and maximize preparedness for your home and workplace. Once you have your supplies together, it will pay to go through all “Go Bags” at least once a year. (For additional recommendations, be sure to check out ready.gov)
2. Get organized. Have a “Plan”
When things get chaotic, you want to make sure that every family member knows what to do. We suggest designating three family meeting places (one close by, one further away but in your neighborhood, and one out-of-area). Keep a map near your “Go Bag” that marks these locations and use it to train/inform. Notify extended family members of your out-of-area meeting place.
Communications is an important part of your emergency plan. It pays to have a hard copy list of important contacts because you may not have the luxury of using your cell phone or other computer. Make a mini contact list (ready.gov has a template you can print out) with important numbers that each family member can stow in wallet or purse. Also, download this information to a thumb drive and put it in your “Go Bag.” Establish a plan for checking in with relatives in case normal communication avenues get jammed. Text messages will often go through, even when cells are clogged. It takes 800 times the bandwidth to make a voice call compared to a brief text. “RUOK” and “IMOK” may be all that’s necessary.
3. It makes sense. Prep Your Home
Stockpile any and all materials or tools you may need in the event your home’s power sources are lost. Plan for alternate water supplies. Think fire safety and house escape routes. Keep your vehicles’ gas tanks at least half full (if the power grid fails, no one will be pumping gas or honoring credit cards). If your home’s power goes out indefinitely, consider unplugging electronics and turning off the central air conditioner, whether you stay or go. This will prevent damage when the electricity surges back on
How you store food can also make a difference when it comes to salvaging items afterwards according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Information Service (FSIS). Grouping food together in the freezer can help. If there’s a chance of flooding, move dry goods to as high a location as possible.
Though you’ll want to minimize the number of times you open your refrigerator once the power goes out, FSIS recommends keeping an appliance thermometer in both your fridge and freezer to help you determine if food is safe to eat. Refrigerator should be lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezer temp should be below zero F.
4. Coming home. After the Emergency
Coming home after a major disaster can be daunting. Be sure to check out the following tips from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute to ensure that your family stays safe in the aftermath. And remember, do your part. A prepared community is a resilient community.
- Food Safety After a Power Outage
- Home Safety Tips
- How to Clean Appliances and Fabrics After Flooding
- Cleaning Your Home After a Natural Disaster
“Tips for household emergencies and neighborhood disasters” is submitted quarterly to the Town Creek Crier by HOA board member, Jess Wade. Now retired, Jess served from 2005 to 2016 as Coordinator for the Dallas County Medical Reserve Corps, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Bioterrorism Division of the Dallas County Department of Health & Human Services.