Public Safety and Natural Disasters The possibility of public health emergencies arising in the United States concerns many people in the wake of recent hurricanes, tsunamis, acts of terrorism, and the threat of pandemic influenza. Though some people feel it is impossible to be prepared for unexpected events, the truth is that taking preparedness actions helps people deal with disasters of all sorts much more effectively when they do occur.
If disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for some time.
By taking time now to prepare emergency water supplies, food supplies and disaster supplies kit, you can provide for your entire family. Even though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supplies for two weeks, consider maintaining a supply that will last that long. You may not need to go out and buy foods to prepare an emergency food supply. You can use the canned goods, dry mixes, and other staples on your cupboard shelves.
Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least 2 quarts (a half gallon) of water each day. You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. Store at least an additional half-gallon per person, per day for this. Store at least a 3-day supply and consider storing a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. If you are unable to store this much, store as much as you can.
You can reduce the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool. And don’t forget to take your pets and service animals into account! If a natural or human-caused disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water and electricity for a while. By taking steps now to store emergency food and water supplies, along with a disaster supplies kit, you can reduce the effect of any such disaster on your family. Detailed information on the steps outlined below can be found in the American Red Cross publication, “Food and Water in an Emergency.” Families can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Create a family disaster plan including a communication plan, disaster supplies kit, and an evacuation plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.
“Shelter-in-place” means to take immediate shelter where you are at home, work, school, or in between. It may also mean “seal the room;” in other words, take steps to prevent outside air from coming in. This is because local authorities may instruct you to “shelter-in place” if chemical or radiological contaminants are released into the environment. It is important to listen to TV or radio to understand whether the authorities wish you to merely remain indoors or to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family. At home Choose a room in advance for your shelter. The best room is one with as few windows and doors as possible. A large room, preferably with a water supply, is desirable—something like a master bedroom that is connected to a bathroom.
Contact your workplaces, your children’s schools, nursing homes where you may have family and your local town or city officials to find out what their plans are for “shelter-in-place.” Find out when warning systems will be tested. When tested in your area, determine whether you can hear or see sirens and/or warning lights from your home. Develop your own family emergency plan so that every family member knows what to do. Practice it regularly. Assemble a disaster supplies kit that includes emergency water and food supplies.
Admittedly, taking shelter in a vehicle may be an uncomfortable experience, particularly in very hot or very cold weather. Still, such discomfort is safer than possibly exposing yourself to chemical or radiological contaminants in the outside air. Having a portable disaster supplies kit in your vehicle could make the experience less unpleasant.
The appropriate steps depend on the emergency situation. If you hear a warning signal, listen to local radio or television stations for further information. You will be told what to do, including where to find the nearest shelter if you are away from your “shelter-in-place” location.