This will be the last in the series of information from the American Red Cross publication, “PREPARE! A Resource Guide.” Today’s blog will cover dealing with Biological or Chemical Threat, Terrorism, and Pandemic Flu. Surprisingly, this section is a little on the short side.
*If available, choose an internal room in your house for a shelter – preferably, a room without windows and is located at the highest level of your house (many gasses are heavier than air and will stay low to the ground). The larger the room, the better, for storage of water and food. Ideally, a master bedroom with access to a bathroom. If none of these are available in your home, choose the room that is most centrally located in your home.
*Contact your workplaces, the schools where your children attend, and other facilities like nursing homes, etc…, your local community officials to find out what plans they may have for ‘shelter-in-place.’ Make sure everyone in your family is aware of this information.
*Find out when warning systems will be tested, and use those times to test your family and / or co-workers. Make sure you know what the warning signal is, if it is audible from your location and if there are ancillary warning systems in place, like flashing lights and radio / television transmissions.
*Develop your own family emergency plan, with specific duties for each family member. Practice it regularly – when the time changes is a good time.
*Keep a disaster supplies kit in or close to the chosen room. Make sure you have ample water and food supplies for at least a couple of days. Make sure your kit includes enough heavy duty visqueen to cover all windows, vents, and doors in the room you’re using. Include duct tape to secure the visqueen in place. Also, you’ll need a good sharp pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Having the visqueen pre-cut for each area to cover is advisable. Label each sheet so you know where it goes. Make sure everyone knows everyone else’s job, if one or more members of your family are not at home when an emergency occurs, you’ll be able to handle the task of securing your safe room.
*Check on your kit regularly to make sure it is up-to-date.
*Help ensure that the emergency plan and checklist involves all employees – again, make sure most, if not all, of your employees are cross-trained in their specific tasks.
*Be sure to inspect your shelter kit in a regular basis to make sure food and water are not expired and none of the necessary components are deteriorating or have walked away.
If an announcement is made to ‘Shelter-in-place,” you’ll need to act quickly. If instructions are forwarded from local authorities, follow them if able. General guidelines are:
*Bring children and pets inside immediately. If your kids are at school, do not try to get them, unless directed to do so. The school should have a shelter in place program that will be put into affect.
*Close and lock all exterior doors and windows (locking windows may improve the seal, reducing air flow).
*If there is eminent danger of an explosion, get inside, close all curtains, drapes, blinds, or other covering over windows and / or doors. Keep away from any windows and doors.
*Turn off all appliances. This includes your heater / AC, oven, kitchen and bathroom fans (including those operated by the rooms’ light switch).
*Close all flues, dampers, and other avenues of air flow into the building. Be familiar with how each operates, so you know how to turn it off quickly.
*Bring everyone (including your pets) into your pre-selected ‘safe room’. Grab your disaster supply kit if it is not stored in your safe room.
*The room you choose for your safe room should have approximately 10 square feet per person of floor space. This should provide sufficient air for everyone and limit CO build up for about five hours. (Not all rooms will meet this criteria, so do the best you can.) If necessary, cover the vents, windows, and doors with the previously cut visqueen and duct tape. Having a land line telephone in the room will be a plus – hand held phones need electricity to operate – if the power goes out, the phone will be useless. Cell phones may provide spotty service as providers will most likely be overwhelmed with callers. If able, have an area or way for pets to relieve themselves as needed – going outside during a chemical or biological emergency is not an option. Seal-able plastic bags are a huge plus for a number of purposes (including pet cleanup).
*Keep a battery operated or hand crank radio with you – know the local emergency frequency (Happy Valley is 1700 on the AM dial). Keep listening to the radio, or if it is available, your television. Limit the use of electricity as much as possible.
*Call your out-of-state emergency contact and give them an update.
*Do not evacuate until instructed to do so.
When an advisory is made that the emergency is over, open windows and doors, turn on vent fans, and exit your building until any and all stale air has been replaced with fresh. Follow any special instructions provided by local, regional, state, or national authorities regarding any possible radioactive, chemical, or biological contaminants outdoors.
Information specifically regarding terrorist attacks (www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/terrorism):
Attacks like what the US experience on September 11th, 2001 have left many people concerned about possible future terrorist attacks and the impact they may have. We learned a great deal from those events, but we still have much to learn. There are things you can do to prepare for a terrorist attack that can not only help reduce the stress the event creates, but may also help create a measure of control for you and your family.
Unfortunately, as we learned on that fateful day in 2001, there is little warning for a terrorist attack, so preparing for a specific event is difficult. The best preparation is open communication with your family, friends, and local authorities and what disaster plans may be in place locally and regionally. Knowing how to react and having a plan in place if / when an attack does occur is better than a panicked reaction. Be sure everyone in your home or place of work knows where your emergency kit is and how to use all components of it.
What to do if a terrorist attack does occur:
*Remain calm, be patient. This is hard advice to follow, but like panic, patience and calm can be contagious, too.
*Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
*Listen to your radio or television, if available.
*If an event does occur near you, give first aide as you are able to and get help for seriously injured people.
*Using a flashlight, check for damage around the structure you are in. Do NOT light a candle, match, or turn on electrical switches until you are sure there is no danger of an explosion from gas or other flammables. If you smell gas, and you are able to safely do so, open windows and get everyone outside as quickly and safely as possible. Turn off the gas if safe to do so.
*Turn off other appliances if necessary.
*Secure your pets – kenneling them is best for them and others around.
*Call your emergency contact and provide an update.
*Check on neighbors and see if anyone needs assistance – provide help as you are safely able to.
*If told to ‘shelter-in-place’, follow your disaster plan and remain in place until told it is safe to leave or move.
Evacuation during an attack:
If local authorities ask you to leave your home, there is most likely a very good reason to make this request. If and when the request to evacuate is made, you should do so as quickly as possible. Keep these simple tips in mind:
*Wear long sleeved shirts, full length pants and sturdy shoes for protection as much as possible.
*Take your disaster supplies kit with you.
*Take your pets.
*Lock your home. If you have a safe that is securely bolted to a wall or floor, put what valuables you can in there and lock it.
*Use travel routes specified by local authorities.
*Stay away from downed power lines.
Possible scenario’s to watch for during an attack:
As we learned in 2001 and in other global events, a number of things can happen during a terrorist attack:
*There can be significant casualties and / or damage to surrounding structures. Make sure everyone in your household or your employers have information on any medical needs and how to get ahold of family members or other emergency contacts.
*There will most likely be very heavy law enforcement and / or military involvement on local, regional and national levels, depending on the severity of the attack and its scope.
*Emergency responders, mental health resources, and other first responders will most likely be stretched to their limits during an attack – possibly even be overwhelmed. If you are not injured, either stay put or find a way to assist where able, without hindering any emergency personnel.
*Extensive media coverage, public fear and concerns over extended consequences may continue for prolonged periods.
*Workplaces, schools, and public areas may be closed for extended periods of time. Domestic and international travel may be restricted.
*Depending on the type and scope of attack, your family may be required to relocate – this may be short term or long term, depending on the situation. Be aware, there may be a number of closed access routes, and very large numbers of others evacuating as well. Patience is key.
*Clean up and recovery may take weeks, months, or depending on the scope, years to complete.
Other things to contemplate / positive actions you can take:
Raw footage of terrorist attacks and the reactions people have to them can be upsetting, especially to children. Use discretion in what reports and footage from attacks you let your children see. Listening to radio reports will parlay the necessary information without imbedding potentially disturbing images on your child’s psyche.
Hopefully it will be a very long time before we experience another terrorist attack on US soil. However, given the current global political and extremist climates, it is much better to be prepared than reactionary.