In this, the fourth installment of this blog, we’ll cover the last four items of the thirteen as provided in the American Red Cross pamphlet, “Prepare! A Resource Guide.”
9) Preparing Your Pet For Disaster
For most of us, our pets are as much family members as are our kids, and are treated as such. In the event of a disaster, if an evacuation is ordered, the best thing you can do to help your pets is to evacuate them with you. If it’s not safe for you to remain at your residence, it’s not safe for them, either. Preparing yourself now will make an evacuation smoother and easier, when one occurs.
Know a safe place to take your pet.
* Pets are not allowed in disaster shelters (per state and local health regulations – service animals are – pets are not).
*Contact local hotels and motels in your area to find out what their pet policies are. Make note of which ones are pet friendly (and especially make note of size / species restrictions). Find out if those that have no pet policies can be waived in the event of an emergency.
*Ask friends, family or others outside your immediate are if they are able to assist with sheltering your pets.
*Ask local animal shelters, hospitals, and veterinarians if they provide emergency shelter during a disaster. If they don’t ask if they know of anyone who does in your area.
Assemble a pet emergency preparedness kit.
Keep food and other necessary supplies stored where they can be easily accessed or moved, like storage containers, duffle bags, or old luggage.
*Keep extra food around for the same amount of time as you have for yourself – up to three weeks is a good rule of thumb.
*Medications and medical records – and a first aid kit.
*Leashes, harnesses, collars, and a carry kennel or cage. Keep in mind that your pets will be just as scared as you, if not, more so. Make sure you have something they cannot escape from, but is not injurious to them.
*Keep updated photos of your pets in case they do escape.
*Fresh, drinkable water, dishes, bags, and a manual can opener for canned food.
*If your pets are on a strict feeding schedule, have that information readily available. Keep the phone number and address for your veterinarian enclosed as well.
*Pet beds or toys.
Learn more at www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/pet-first-aid-app.
The pet first aid app is available for $0.99 through app stores.
10. What You Need To Know About Utilities
Natural gas is odorless and colorless, so the gas companies add a foul smelling odorant to the gas. The odorant is highly concentrated so it can be smelled even in the smallest amounts. If you smell sulfur or rotten eggs, there is a very good chance of a gas leak. If you smell either of these aromas or hear a hissing sound, use these guidelines: Smell. Go. Let Us Know.
If you smell gas in your home:
*Leave the area immediately
*Do not look for the leak, just leave. Take your family and pets with you.
*Do not use any electrical appliance, light switches, or phones as these can create a spark. Be very careful if your home has carpet in it as static electricity can build up – touching a grounded item could cause a spark, too.
*Do not attempt to light a match, lighter, or a candle.
*Do not start your car near a natural gas odor as it may ignite any fumes. Do not use your garage door opener – open it manually.
*Once you’ve left your home and are a good distance away, contact NW Natural Gas at 800-882-3377 or your local gas company.
If the power goes off:
*Check your fuse box or breakers to see if any have been tripped. If none of them have been tripped, check to see if others in the neighborhood have lost power, too. Checking street lights or traffic lights may be a good indicator, too, if they are close by.
*Contact the power company to report the outage.
*Turn off appliances and equipment (water heater, stove, washer / dryer, refrigerator, and television) to help prevent an overload on the system when the power does return. You can turn off most of your appliances by unplugging them or at the breaker box if they do not have on / off switches.
*Turn on one light in the house and a porch light so you and any repair crews in the area can tell when power is restored.
*Do not open your fridge or freezer while the power is out.
*Listen to local radio or keep track on social media for updates. The website for your power company should provide some updates as well. If your neighbors power comes back on, but yours does not, contact your power company again.
*If your lights are working, but not in the way the normally would (too bright or too dim), turn your lights off at the breaker and contact your power company.
Downed power lines / safety:
Electricity is not visible and often times will not provide any clues indicating a downed power line is live or not. Just because there aren’t any sparks or smoke, does not mean a downed line is not active. If you see a downed power line, keep clear – remember, electricity may be conductive through items touching a downed power line, such as water, metal, tree limbs, wet grass or pavement, or concrete.
If you see a downed power line:
*DO NOT TOUCH IT!! Call the local electric utility immediately and keep clear.
*If a line is down on a person, contact 9-1-1 and keep away. Trying to help them may make you an additional victim. “If a line falls across your vehicle, stay in the vehicle until help arrives. If you have to get out of the vehicle due to a fire, or other life threatening situation, jump clear of the car with both feet together, making sure not to touch the car and the ground at the same time. Then, keeping your feet together at all times, shuffle or hop far away from the car and power line.” (American Red Cross Cascades Region pub Prepare! A Resource Guide, pg 23).
*Keep an eye out for repair crews working on downed lines. Slow down and obey flaggers.
If you own or use a portable generator, keep the precautions in mind:
*Do not plug your generator into a wall outlet. Doing so may cause an injury or damage your electrical system.
*Always operate your gasoline / diesel powered outside or in an extremely well ventilated area only. Make sure the exhaust is discharging away from windows, doors. and vents to your home. Only use grounded (three prong) out door rated extension cords when connecting your generator to an appliance.
*Remember that generators do create a lot of heat and can become very hot themselves. Keep pets and children away from them.
*Notify your power company if you have a permanent generator. Permanently installed generators must meet local codes. They must have a transfer switch to avoid possible back transfers to power lines – a potentially dangerous situation.
11) What You Need To Know About Water
After a disaster of any magnitude, access to a clean water supply may be limited. It is important to store plenty of extra clean drinking water and know how to access alternative water supplies.
Alternative sources of water:
*Melted ice cubes
*Liquid from canned vegetables.
*Water in your water heater. To drain, turn off the power supply and / or gas supply to the appliance. Then open the drain cock at the bottom of the tank (put a container under the drain cock at this point) and open a ‘hot’ faucet in your house – this will release any vacuum on the system, allowing the water to flow freely out at the water heater.
*Water in your house pipes. First off, shut off the water main. Next, open a faucet at the lowest level of your home (put a container under it before the next step). Open a faucet at the highest level of the home – this will relieve the vacuum on the system and allow the water to flow freely from now open faucet at the lowest point in the house.
*Avoid drinking or cooking with water from radiators, waterbeds, swimming pools, hot tubs, and toilet tanks or bowls.
Proper Water Storage
You will need more water than you think during an emergency. Figure on enough water for at least a week – maybe as long as three weeks. One gallon of water per person (and per pet) per day. If you run low on water, do not ration it. Drink what you have allotted for today, today. Search today for more water for tomorrow.
*Store bottled drinking water out of direct sunlight, in an area not prone to freezing or near chemicals that may affect the bottle itself.
*If bottling tap water, use well cleaned and sanitized, empty soda or water containers, or purchase new bottles. You can sanitize bottles by rinsing them in bleach water. Every six months, replace the water with new, after washing and sanitizing the bottles.
*Pouring water back and forth between containers will add oxygen and make the water taste better.
If you have concerns about the purity of a water source, don’t hesitate to treat it prior to drinking it or cooking with it. If water is from a questionable source and has a bad odor or taste, it may need to be sanitized. In fact, it is best to sanitize it anyway. Micro-organisms in unsanitized water can cause dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and / or hepatitis, all of which, untreated, can be life threatening.
There are two treatment types to make water safe to drink or cook with:
1) Filter through a coffee filter or some cloth, then heat to a boil for several minutes.
2) If boiling is not an option, you can follow the same process, but sanitize with bleach (1/8 teaspoon per half gallon of water). Sodium hypochlorite should be the only active ingredient in the bleach (concentration of 5.25% to 6%). Let stand for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. If the water smells of chlorine, it will be okay to use. If it does not, repeat the process. If it still does not, discard the water and find another source.
*Store the disinfected water in clean and sanitized containers. Make sure they have tight covers on them and keep them out of any sunlight.
*You can also use iodine tablets for purification – follow the directions on the packaging.
*There are many water filtration / purification tools available on the market, too. Check your sporting goods stores for back packing / camping supplies that purify water.
2-1-1 Information & Referral
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Washington Department of Ecology
Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
Oregon Disaster Center
Washington Disaster Center
Oregon Emergency Management
Washington State Emergency Management Division
Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal
Oregon Poison Center
Partnership for Disaster Resilience
Other resources are available at the American Red Cross at redcross.org.cascades.
Be Red Cross Ready Checklist – see below links – first is PDF of “Prepare! A Resource Guide”, the second is a checklist for earthquake preparedness.
As previously mentioned, I will address the threat of Biological or Chemical Threat, and Terrorism on my next blog. Until next time!