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Summer is here! I love summertime, but I live in AZ so in addition to fun and vacation time, summer for me brings extreme temperatures, dust storms, wildfire danger, and Monsoon Season (aka flood season). Elsewhere, it is the season for heat waves (continuous high temperatures coupled with humidity), tornadoes, and flooding. So, it's definitely time for a refresher on how to prepare for such situations. There are a few things that are universally important to do to prepare.
Ready.gov is a very useful site that can tell you what natural disasters you are at risk for where you live. It suggests three basic things we should all do to prepare for any emergency.
1. Get a kit
2. Make a plan
3. Be informed
Personally, I think it makes the most sense to go in reverse order. Inform yourself on the potential dangers you face in your area, then make a plan including a 72 hour kit appropriate for your situation and family needs.
Below I list a number of potential emergencies and some links to help inform you.
Heat wave: This could happen anywhere. In fact it is often the most harmful in places where you least expect it because people often aren't ready for it. If you do find yourself in this situation, make sure you dress lightly, avoiding polyester; drink lots of water; eat lightly--fruits and veggies are best; NEVER leave kids or pets in cars (temperatures can rise and cause death in just minutes), and make sure you check on your elderly or infirm friends and neighbors.
If you notice symptoms of heat illness such as clammy skin, excessive sweating, pallor, extreme fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, lightheadedness, or excessive thirst, seek medical advice and cool the person down as soon as possible. Signs of a heat emergency are red flushed skin OR paleness, body temperature of 106 F or higher, seizures, extreme headache, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, sweating ceases, confusion, or unconciousness. If you notice these symptoms seek medical attention immediately! For more on safety during a heat wave, check out http://www.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Heat-WaveWild Fires: Smoky the Bear always said, "Only you can prevent forest fires!" So, the most important thing here is to heed the warnings and restrictions for campfires in your area. My husband is a Boy Scout leader and they are scrambling right now because all of the mountains here are closed due to fire risk and therefore, scout camp is cancelled. As sad as this is, it would be infinitely worse if that warning wasn't heeded and they found themselves in a wild fire situation. Another big temptation is fireworks. It's disappointing when fireworks are restricted during this patriotic season (trust me, I know. It happens every year here!), but it is vital that those restrictions are heeded. Some other advice for reducing your risk of being affected by a wild fire is to clear dried weeds and brush from your property, have a working fire extinguisher, never drop a burning cigarette (not smoking them in the first place is even better!), install smoke detectors on every level of your home, and keep your vegetation watered and pruned. For more information on wild fires, see here: http://www.fema.gov/hazard/wildfire/wf_prepare.shtm
Dust/Sand Storm: "Sand Storms are among nature's most violent and unpredictable phenomena. High winds lift dirt particles or, in the case of sandstorms, sand, into the air, unleashing a turbulent, suffocating cloud of particulates and reducing visibility to almost nothing in a matter of seconds." If you are in a sandy or dry area you should be especially aware of this danger. These storms are especially dangerous for motorists. If you are driving and encounter a sandstorm you should try to outrun it if you can. Once you are in the storm, it is best to pull over, close all windows and vents, and turn off all lights to prevent a collision. This seems counter intuitive, but in storm situations people often follow the lights of the cars around them to get through, so if you are on the side of the road they may follow you and be run off the road or even collide with you. Sand storms are often accompanied by high temperatures, so make sure you keep plenty of water in your car when traveling. If you get stuck outside in a sand storm, seek higher ground. Do not lay in a ditch or gully as flash floods are common in areas of sand storms. For more information on sand storms, see: http://www.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Dust-Storm-or-Sandstorm
Floods: These are the nation's most common natural disaster and "flash floods are the #1 weather-related killer in the U.S." according to FEMA. There is flooding right now on the Mississippi that is breaking records. Flooding is also forecast for many other parts of the country and it happens here in Arizona multiple times each year. One of the best ways to be alert to flood danger is to check in with your local news daily. Be aware of where the flood plains are in your area and also in the areas that you plan to travel. If you are planning a hike in a flash flood area, stay up to date on the wather forecast and check regularly for flood warnings. If rain is expected or warnings are in effect, consider a change in plans. Flash floods can happen miles away from an actual storm as the rain waters rush over the hard dry ground, so don't think you are safe just because it isn't raining right where you are. If you know there is a danger of runoff flooding, create barriers like a sand bag wall, turn off the electricity to your home, elevate any valuables, then seek higher ground. Avoid walking and driving through flood waters, but if you must walk through them, do so with great caution and avoid moving water. This website is also a very useful tool in preparing for floods if you are at risk:http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/flood.shtm
Tornadoes: Although there are areas much more prone to tornadoes than others, they can happen anywhere at any time. We have seen evidence of this lately with the tornadoes in Alabama, Missouri, California, and even Massachusetts. Warning signs of a tornado include darkening skies, especially if it is a greenish or orange color. Also watch for rotation of the cloud base, very calm or quiet conditions during or right after a storm, a rumbling or roaring sound that sounds like continuous thunder or a train, whirling debris on the ground even in the absence of a funnel cloud, blue-green or white flashes in the distance at ground level (these could be a sign of power lines being snapped in high winds). In case of a tornado, seek safety in a shelter, basement, or inner room with no windows. Stay in the middle of the room because debris often gathers around the edges and could injure you. You should also understand that if a tornado strikes, you will not have utilities for about a week, so stock up on non-perishable food as well as water to get you through. See Lessons from Alabama for a first hand look at what you should have from a survivor of the recent Alabama tornado outbreak. Look at these links to see what to watch for, how to prepare for, and what to do in a tornado. http://www.wikihow.com/Prepare-for-a-Tornado http://answers.usa.gov/system/selfservice.controller?
Earthquakes: There isn't an earthquake season as far as I know, but we'll include this just to round out the list. To safegaurd yourself in case of earthquakes, make sure all heavy furniture that may tip is secured to the wall. Do not place heavy objects on high shelves and make sure mirrors, heavy pictures, and shelves with heavy objects are not placed over beds and couches to prevent injury. You and your family should have earthquake drills and have a plan so you know where everyone will meet and communicate after an earthquake occurs. If you are in a car during an earthquake, stop and stay seated, and wait until it's over. However, if you are in a parking garage, get out and crouch next to a car. If you are in a building during an earthquake, you should drop, take cover (protecting your head and neck), and hold on. If you get trapped in a building, slowly make your way out, pushing on objects in your way gently to see if they will move. If it doesn't budge, it is load bearing and should be left alone. Once you are outside, get away from tall buildings if possible in case of an aftershock. If you are outside during an earthquake, stay there. Move away from buildings, trees, street lights, etc that could fall on you. Do not seek shelter under a bridge. No bridge is earthquake proof. For more information about earthquakes check out these links: http://www.wikihow.com/Prepare-for-an-Earthquakehttp://www.wikihow.com/Survive-an-Earthquake
Drowning: This is not a natural disaster, but it is a danger during summertime. Drownings are extra heart breaking because in most cases they could have been prevented. In order to do so you should make sure all pools are fenced in. If you have a small kiddie pool, only have it filled if you are there supervising. When you are done, dump it out. Do your best to block access to pools and hot tubs. Teach your children to swim. Learn CPR and keep emergency equipment handy. Keep your eyes peeled--there should always be an adult swimmer outside the pool keeping an eye on those in the water. Make sure drain covers are up to date and don't allow children to play near drains. Here are a couple of links with more info about how to prevent and spot drowning this summer: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/child-safety/CC00045http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/
Make a Plan!
Everyone's plan will be different depending on location, number of family members, ages of family members, etc. My blogging partner, Tawny, has an excellent post on what to consider when making an emergency plan. Check it out here. Shelf Reliance also has a great checklist here.
Get a Kit!
If you are not familiar with an emergency kit, they are basically backpacks or other containers that you can easily grab and go with in case an emergency requires immediate evacuation. They contain items that you will need to make it through the first few days of an emergency while you wait for help or safe return home. It is a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your vehicles, in school lockers/backpacks, and at the office. Shelf Reliance has a number of emergency kitsavailable. These kits are a wise investment for your family, make a great birthday/holiday gift, and are a fabulous and unique wedding gift too. Right now the 2 Person Survival Pack is on sale for only $79.10 (plus taxes and S&H) when you order through a consultant. Email me email@example.com if you are interested in that deal. Shelf Reliance also provides a free emergency kit planner to help you customize a kit based around your personal needs. If you are feeling ambitious, you can always make your own kit too. I will post soon with more details on 72 hour kits and what my family's kits contain. If you want to get started now, here are two great resources to guide you: http://www.nationalterroralert.com/72hourkit/http://lds.about.com/od/preparednessfoodstorage/a/72hour_kit.htm
I hope this information is helpful to you this summer, so that this year you will not only survive, you'll also thrive no matter what life throws at you!
Are you Prepared? What does you family need to get ready for summer? Share your summer tips below!
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