Category : Emergency Preparedness
Don’t forget your pets when calculating your emergency water supply needs!
Image via Jackie (Flickr)
How to Properly Prepare and Maintain an Emergency Water Storage
You can never be too prepared when it comes to drinking water. The human body can live without food for approximately three weeks, but it can only live without water for approximately three days. You never want to think that you will be without water, but we are all susceptible to natural or manmade disasters. This is why it is critically important to include water storage in your household’s emergency preparedness plan. I hope that you will never face a situation where you do not have access to safe drinking water, but if you do, you’ll be relieved to know you can tap into your emergency water storage when necessary.
How Much Water to Store
The first step in preparing an emergency drinking water storage supply for your household is to calculate how much water you should actually keep for your entire family. A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water per day per person. Keep in mind, however, that if you have children, elderly, or ill family members, you might need more water. You will also need extra supplies in your emergency preparedness water storage if you are pregnant, nursing a child, or live in a warmer climate. If you live in a particularly hot environment, you should double your water needs to two gallons per person per day. Read more »
Boiling water at a rolling boil for one minute sterilizes it from bacteria, protozoa, and viral infection.
Image via Zeevveez (Flickr)
Does Drinking Water Need to be Guarded from Terrorist Attacks?
September 11, 2001, is a day that changed the way we perceive terrorism. We had experienced terrorism on our soil in the past, but not to the degree of the 9/11 attacks. People naturally fear that water will be in short supply following a terrorist attack. Water is a crucial component to any disaster preparedness plan. But, what about terrorists actually compromising our water supply itself and using it to attack us? It could happen, and our drinking water does need to be guarded from terrorist attacks.
You see, biohazard and chemical warfare are real in today’s medicinally and technologically advanced world. One way to terrorize any nation is to poison its water supply. A tainted water supply will not only make the nation’s people and animals sick, it will also destroy all of the nation’s crops. Those who survive the tainted water would inevitably starve to death. If you don’t believe me, look at the countries throughout the world currently battling starvation. One of the key reasons people are starving to death in third-world countries is because they do not have an adequate supply of clean water. Read more »
A survey conducted by the American Red Cross in June 2012 reveals that mobile apps for emergency purposes are increasing in popularity. The survey results indicate that approximately 20% of Americans use mobile apps to get information about an emergency situation like a hurricane or tornado. Of course, the major communication channels like TV news, local radio stations, and online news are still the most popular sources of information. When the current survey results are compared with those from 2011, however, the reliance on these traditional communication channels have decreased by about 10% in each category while mobile apps usage for emergency purposes has remained constant at 20% and may very well increase in the near future.
There are several Red Cross mobile apps available which include the First Aid, Shelter Finder, Hurricane, Tornado, Earthquake, and Wildfire Apps. According to the survey, the most popular type of emergency app is weather forecasting, with more than 80% of mobile users preferring this feature. Fortunately, location-based weather alerts are a feature of several of the Red Cross mobile apps. Another important feature of the Hurricane, Tornado, Earthquake, and Wildfire Apps is the one-touch, “I’m safe” messaging. With the touch of a button, users can notify their family and friends that they are safe via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. This is a worthwhile feature since 76% of the social media users that were surveyed said that if they saw emergency information posted on a social media site their first action would be to contact friends and family to see if they were safe.
Mobile apps can provide a large amount of essential information during an emergency. In addition to providing information and tools for survival, the Red Cross staff also believes the emergency mobile apps provide emotional support in a very stressful situation by allowing the user to stay connected with others during an emergency. Though the Red Cross still encourages individuals to first dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, the mobile apps now play a role in preparing for and surviving an emergency.
We all look forward to a vacation whether it will be an adventurous journey or a relaxing getaway. While packing, most people do not plan for any type of emergency situation yet recent events have proven that vacations can quickly turn disastrous. Just in February, for example, an engine fire caused the Carnival cruise ship Triumph to be without electricity or water for five days. The passengers suffered through less than optimal sanitary conditions and food rationing. Fortunately the ship was brought to shore before disease could spread or dwindling supplies would run out.
Being stranded on a ship is not the only disaster one might face while on vacation. Catastrophic events like hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes can also occur. In addition to these hazards, international travelers may also find themselves in an area with a disease outbreak not common in the United States. Since spring break and the summer travel season are quickly approaching, it is important for travelers to think about preparing an Emergency Travel Kit. These travel kits will help to survive any disaster and are definitely worth the small amount of time necessary to prepare.
The travel kit should consist of emergency supplies, medications, and contact information. Some suggested items are provided below.
- Water: This can include bottled water or a portable water filter which is a convenient alternative to traveling with heavy containers of water.
- Snacks: Non-perishable items like dried fruit and crackers are light-weight and easy to pack.
- First-Aid Kit: This includes items such as bandages, disposable gloves, and a thermometer.
- Battery-operated radio
- Extra batteries
Medications (based on the CDC Travel Health Kits recommendations):
- Prescription medications: Keep in clearly labeled, original containers. Pack an extra supply in the event the return from the trip is delayed.
- Destination-related medications: Anti-malarial drugs, for example, should be taken to areas where this disease is prevalent.
- Drugs to treat ailments such as:
- Pain / Fever (i.e. aspirin)
- Stomach Upset / Diarrhea (i.e. antacid)
- Throat / Respiratory Conditions (i.e. decongestant)
Contact Information for:
- All members of the traveling group
- Family member or close friend at home
- Health care provider at home
- Medical insurance
- Hospital or clinic at vacation destination
- Hotel or other lodging
Though some people may be prepared for an emergency at home, a disaster that occurs while on vacation may be more difficult to endure since it is likely an unexpected hazard in an unfamiliar area. Take the time to make an emergency travel kit and be better prepared for any disaster that may strike while on vacation.
As we saw with Hurricane Sandy back in October, a disaster situation can leave a family helpless for days with little assistance from rescue teams. Some people, who regularly practice emergency preparedness, had stockpiled basic emergency supplies months in advance and “weathered” the storm. Countless others, however, did not prepare until the last minute when supplies were running low, causing a frenzy at local grocery stores. A natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, after which approximately 8 million people were left without power for days and thousands had to be rescued from their homes, makes us wonder if Americans will be prepared for the next disaster. A national poll sponsored by the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation suggests that the answer is no.
The Adelphi Natural Disaster Survey, conducted in May 2012, questioned more than 1,000 Americans and, based on the results, estimated that approximately half of all Americans are not adequately prepared for a disaster or other emergency situation. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed do not have any emergency supplies stockpiled and 53% do not have at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water. Even more shocking, 44% of the individuals surveyed do not even have first-aid kits!
Aside from the more basic emergency essentials like food, water, and first-aid supplies, there are other items that people should have in their emergency preparedness kit but do not. For instance, 37% of survey participants do not have a list of drugs used by family members and 52% do not have copies of their health insurance documents readily available, which would prove useful if someone is injured or becomes ill during the disaster event. In addition to the emergency preparedness kit, FEMA and the American Red Cross recommend that families designate a meeting place in the event that they become separated during an emergency. Unfortunately many Americans do not consider this a priority since 52% have not established a family meeting place for emergency purposes.
So why are Americans not preparing for disasters or other emergencies? Recently, FEMA conducted a poll, asking the question, “What makes disaster prep hard?” and respondents provided a variety of explanations. The top five reasons were:
- Complacency: Many Americans are not concerned that they will ever find themselves in an emergency situation such as a natural disaster.
- Procrastination: Americans do not consider emergency preparedness to be a high priority.
- Time: Americans do not want to take the time necessary to make adequate preparations.
- Cost: An emergency preparedness kit requires an initial expense.
- Unknown Disaster: Despite the fact that most emergency preparedness kits are very general and can be used for any situation, many individuals say that they do not know what type of disaster to plan for.
Number eight on the list of reasons for lack of preparedness is the thought that the Government will be available to help everyone if a disaster strikes. Interestingly, the Adelphi Natural Disaster Survey also received a similar response in their poll where 55% of participants believed that local authorities will rescue them following a disaster. This is a dangerous assumption. Depending on the situation, relief workers may not reach survivors for hours or even days which can have fatal consequences.
We all must be prepared to be self-reliant during any emergency. Unfortunately it seems that a large portion of Americans are not concerned about emergency preparedness for a variety of different reasons. Remember, a disaster can strike at any time so putting together an emergency preparedness kit should be a top priority. Preparation will require some time and an initial expense but the peace of mind that comes with having an emergency supply kit is priceless.
Many Americans enjoy watching the wildly popular television show “Doomsday Preppers” on the National Geographic Channel and musing over the elaborate disaster preparations that were created to aid in surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Meanwhile the hands of human civilization’s hypothetical Doomsday Clock are hovering closely to midnight. The Doomsday Clock symbolizes humanity’s susceptibility to destruction and at the stroke of midnight; our civilization’s time will run out.
Created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock’s time setting is based on the current state of nuclear weapons, climate change, and other emerging technologies, and can change based on current events. A team of experts, including the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists board members, several Nobel Prize recipients, and leading authorities on nuclear weapons and other threats, determine the clock setting. At its inception, the clock was set at 7 minutes to midnight as a result of the recent creation of the first atomic bombs. This historical event resulted in the potential for universal destruction through the use of nuclear weapons.
In the past 65 years, the clock’s setting has changed 20 times. In 1953 the clock was set to 2 minutes to midnight, based on the decision of the United States and Soviet Union to create the hydrogen bomb. Earlier, and more optimistic, settings have been announced in the past, though they were not as hopeful as one would like. The earliest setting ever on the Doomsday Clock was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 and resulted from the end of the Cold War between the United States and Russia and the subsequent Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
On January 14, 2013 it was announced that the current clock setting is 5 minutes to midnight. Adjusted from the previous setting of 6 minutes to midnight, this setting signals the increase in destructive means available to the world population. Since some of the most powerful nations are still armed with nuclear weapons and it is estimated that 20 to 30 more countries intend to create an atomic bomb, nuclear weapons still provide the potential for world-wide destruction. But intercontinental ballistic missiles and the like are not the only weapons available that bring us closer to a catastrophe. The potential for widespread use of biological weapons that can cripple a nation force the hands of the Doomsday Clock slightly closer to midnight as well. Concerns about possible climate change events, like sea-level rise, that may also wreak havoc globally, also influenced the clock setting.
Is the Doomsday Clock an accurate depiction of the state of humankind? Are we teetering on the edge of destruction? The figurative clock’s setting is merely subjective, based solely on the opinions of a small team of experts. Nevertheless it is a little unnerving to think that the fate of humanity can be represented by the simple image of a clock nearing its final hour. Perhaps preparing for an apocalypse or other catastrophic event isn’t such a bad idea. Take the time to put together an emergency preparedness kit so that you are ready to survive any disaster but remain hopeful that in the near future the human race will find a way to turn back the clock.
Winter storms can produce adverse driving conditions that could leave you in an emergency situation. Poor driving conditions like blowing snow and icy streets can cause your vehicle to slide off the road. Other vehicle problems like dead batteries, flat tires, and low fuel can also leave you stranded on the side of the road as well. If the weather conditions remain hazardous, rescue crews may not be able to reach you for hours or even days. Every year thousands of stranded motorists are rescued but there are always a few unfortunate individuals that do not survive.
It is recommended that if the weather may potentially become hazardous, you do not leave your home. But it is important to prepare a car emergency kit to keep in your vehicle so that if you must venture out in harsh road conditions, you will be prepared for survival. Here are some essential supplies that you should definitely keep in your car emergency kit. These supplies are so small they can fit in a backpack which is easy to carry and will not take up a lot of space in your vehicle. The supply list is partly based on the American Red Cross Emergency Supply Kit.
- Water: A 3-day supply is recommended. You will need about 1 gallon per person per day.
- Food: It is recommended that you keep a 3-day supply of non-perishable, high energy foods that are easy to prepare.
- Manual can opener
- Glow stick: A one-time use, short-term light source.
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Multi-purpose tool
- Rain gear
- Work gloves
- Duct tape
- Candle: For emergency heating
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Emergency blanket: These thin, metallized plastic blankets, though extremely compact, are waterproof and windproof and can prevent heat loss.
There are some additional supplies that you might want to add to your car emergency kit as well. These supplies include:
- Water Filter: In the event that your water supplies run low.
- Red bandana: You can tie this to your car antenna to indicate you need help.
- Medications: A seven day supply is recommended.
- Copies of personal documents
- Cell phone with charger
- Emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Map of the area
- Extra clothing, hat, and sturdy shoes: Remember, loosely woven cotton and wool trap warm air and resist dampness really well.
- Plastic sheeting
- Sleeping bag
- Baby and/or pet supplies, if necessary
- Booster cables for starting vehicle
- Fire extinguisher
- Tire repair kit and pump
- Sack of sand or kitty litter: These items will help you get more tire traction.
- Windshield scraper and brush
If you become stranded, it is important that you stay with your vehicle. Remaining in your vehicle helps rescuers find you and protects you from severe exposure to the elements. In order to conserve gasoline, only run the engine for 10 minutes every hour. During this time you can run the heater to take away the chill. You can also turn on your interior light at night which helps rescuers find you and provides a small amount of heat. Before running the engine, make sure that the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice, or mud as this could cause carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment.
The car emergency kit can be used for any emergency, not just during a winter storm. Gather your supplies and keep your kit in your car at all times so that you are better prepared to survive any type of crisis situation.
Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many people are discussing the possible end of the world on December 21, 2012. This supposedly was predicted centuries ago by the Mayan calendar. Some merely joke about this prophecy while others take it more seriously and seek to prepare for the possibility of the end of civilization as we know it. Since emergency preparedness is a serious issue, whether it is for the end of the world or a winter storm, it is worthwhile to investigate this prophecy a little further.
The Mayan Calendar
The Maya civilization was present from 2000 BC to AD 250. While they were known for their written language, art and architecture, in recent days they have become best known for their mathematical and astronomical calculations. The Mayans tracked lunar cycles to create short, monthly calendar periods while they also used planetary observations to establish longer range time cycles, or the Long Count calendar. For instance, the Mayans calculated that it takes 117 days for Earth and Mercury to complete one orbit and return to their original positions in relation to each other.
While many archaeologists and anthropologists believe that the Mayans only used the calculations to synchronize their sacred rituals with astrological events, many others believe that the Mayan calculations can be used to predict impending astronomical disasters as well. The Maya Long Count calendar is based on units of time called baktuns. Each baktun consists of 144,000 days and on December 21, 2012 the Long Count calendar will presumably have run through 13 baktuns which was a significant number for the Mayans. Many claim the December 21st date is the end of the Long Count calendar which signals the beginning of the apocalypse.
Possible Events on December 21, 2012
There are numerous speculations about the types of apocalyptic events that may occur on December 21, 2012. One possibility is either a planetary alignment, or an alignment of the earth and sun with the Milky Way Galaxy. Many believe that such an alignment will affect the earth’s magnetic surface. NASA denies that this claim because a planetary alignment is not expected to occur for the next few decades. Furthermore, NASA states that an alignment with planets or a galaxy will not affect the Earth in any way. Every year the earth and sun align with the Milky Way without any effects to the Earth.
Also feared by many is an impact by an asteroid or comet. NASA however reports that they conduct surveys for near-Earth asteroids and comets and there are no objects present that pose a risk to the planet Earth. Along with asteroids and comets, there is a rumor of a planet, Nibiru, on a collision course with the Earth. NASA has stated that there is no such planet and that all currently known dwarf planets are on orbits that will never bring them close enough to the Earth to cause a collision.
One final speculation is the possibility of solar flares powerful enough to disable power grids on the earth’s surface. According to NASA, solar flares occur on a regular basis, usually reaching a peak every 11 years. The next maximum solar flare is expected to occur sometime between 2012 and 2014 but its magnitude and timing is relatively unpredictable. The biggest solar flare ever recorded occurred in1859 and actually affected telegraph systems, causing sparks which shocked telegraph operators and set telegraph paper on fire. The following day, bright, multi-colored auroras also could be seen just before dawn by people across the globe. Another flare of this magnitude could possibly damage satellite electronics causing a disruption of radar, cell phone communications, and GPS receivers. The currents from the bright aurora displays of the Northern and Southern Lights may also affect power lines and telephone cables.
Is the End of the World a Possibility?
Archaeologists disagree with the claims that the Mayans predicted the end of the world because they do not believe the Mayans had apocalyptic visions. According to their findings, the Mayan culture was obsessed with cycles of time and believed in new beginnings but not endings. Newly discovered wall writings from the 9th century in Guatemala actually have calendars that go beyond 2012, indicating the Mayans did not believe the world will end just yet.
Experts do agree that the thirteenth baktun that we are approaching was predicted by the Mayans to be a milestone, but probably not an apocalypse. While the Mayans were known to prophesize, their prophecies were more likely to involve events like disease or drought and therefore many agree that these events would be more likely to occur than the end of the world. Interestingly, experts have not been able to agree upon the synchronization of our calendar with the Mayan calendar which means that the precise date of the thirteenth baktun is questionable and while it may actually be December 21st, there is a possibility it may have already occurred or may still lie ahead.
Preparedness is Always Recommended
There are many uncertainties surrounding December 21, 2012. This date could bring about anything from disease to an apocalyptic event to a solar flare that disrupts satellite communications. Or the day may pass without any unusual events at all. It is impossible to precisely predict the extent of a disaster, whether it is an impending winter storm, hurricane, or a prophesized apocalyptic event. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare for potential events far in advance. Review the blogs regarding emergency preparedness information, such as preparing an emergency supply kit. Even if nothing occurs on December 21, 2012, if you have practiced emergency preparedness, you will be adequately prepared for any emergency situation that might arise in the future.
Recent events like Hurricane Sandy have shown us that a disaster can strike at any time and it is important to be prepared so that you can be self-reliant during an emergency situation. If you have read our advice about emergency preparedness and take this topic very seriously, you probably are in the process of putting together an emergency preparedness kit. Even if you have a water filter, food supplies, and emergency essentials, you may not be completely ready for any type of crisis situation yet. What if you need help suppressing a small fire or searching for loved ones, and emergency responders have no way of getting to you for several hours or even days? You may want to consider training to be on your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) prior to any disaster.
Humans naturally have a way of coming together in a time of crisis to help one another. CERT, a partner with the federally funded program Citizen Corps, builds on this concept of neighbors helping neighbors. The CERT training program provides emergency response training for groups like community organizations, neighborhood watch, communities of faith, scouting organizations, and workplace employees. The training is typically given in seven weekly sessions with each session lasting about 2 ½ hours. The sessions cover the following topics.
- Disaster preparedness: Participants learn about actions to take before, during, and after a disaster. They also learn the types of disasters that may potentially affect their community and the laws that apply to volunteers in the area.
- Fire Suppression: Participants learn how to assess a fire situation, control utilities, properly use a fire extinguisher, and suppress a small fire. Participants will also receive basic training on hazardous materials and fire hazards.
- Medical Operations: This topic is broken into two sessions. The first session focuses on rapidly diagnosing and treating the “three most common killers”: airway obstruction, shock, and bleeding. The second session teaches participants how to set up a medical treatment area, assess an individual, and provide safe and sanitary first aid.
- Light Search and Rescue: Participants learn about planning a search and rescue operation as well as search and rescue techniques, with a primary focus on rescuer safety.
- Disaster Psychology and Team Organization: This topic helps participants understand how victims and workers react emotionally to disasters. Team organization and management principles are also covered.
The last session involves a take-home test and a disaster simulation so the participants can practice the skills they learned throughout the course.
Currently, there are more than 1100 CERT volunteers in the US. Some of these groups were utilized during Hurricane Sandy. For instance, CERT volunteers assisted the Red Cross in staffing a regional shelter in Camden County, New Jersey and groups in Virginia helped provide sandbags to residents. During previous disasters, CERT volunteers have assisted in countless other ways as well.
You never know what can happen in a disaster situation. Do not be unprepared or the consequences may be quite severe. Prepare an emergency preparedness kit and consider CERT training. If you are part of a group that would like CERT emergency response training, you can search for CERT programs near you on the CERT website.
With the recent arrival of Hurricane Sandy on the east coast of the US, millions of Americans are now beginning to understand how natural disasters can severely impact their daily lives. Drinking water supplies were some of the first supplies to be completely depleted from the stores when the public was scrambling to prepare for this “storm of the century”. It seems almost ironic that despite the fact that in a region being inundated with water through rainfall and storm surge, hurricanes have an enormous impact on not only water quality but availability as well.
We typically associate high winds and heavy rainfall with hurricanes. This extremely heavy rainfall overwhelms underground pipes, streets, and drains that normally carry away storm water leaving behind contaminated standing water. In combined sewer systems that collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater, the flooding will result in untreated sewage overflowing into local water bodies and contaminating local drinking water supplies. Wells also risk contamination from malfunctioning septic tanks leaking sewage and runoff contaminated with surface chemicals soaking into the ground. Currently, residents of many of the states affected by Hurricane Sandy are encouraged to disinfect their wells prior to use for these reasons.
The lack of electricity can also lead to contaminated water and low water availability. Municipal water systems often use pumps to move water and sewage through force mains to the treatment plants. If these pumps operate on electricity, they will be disabled in a power outage which can cause sewage backups and overflows. Many municipal water districts now have back-up generators but whenever generators are the sole power source, water conservation is required. For example, water suppliers like New Jersey American Water are currently asking customers to discontinue non-essential water usage for bathing, watering, and cleaning until further notice.
Rural areas usually rely on electricity to pump water in the home and may experience water shortages during a power outage. Most drinking water wells have electric pumps that will not work without electricity. If the power outage is extended for a longer period of time, water will stagnate and sediment will likely settle in the well and distribution lines. When the power is restored, the well water may be discolored due to the sediment and, while it is usually not harmful, the well may require disinfection to eliminate any disease-causing bacteria or other pathogens.
Solution: Prepare in Advance
Unfortunately, many of the current victims of Hurricane Sandy must either temporarily relocate or rely on relief workers for their water. It is best to prepare in advance for a natural disaster in order to avoid being in a situation where water is either contaminated, in limited supply, or altogether unavailable. It will also help to avoid fighting over the last container of water at a packed grocery store the day before the storm is predicted to arrive. FEMA and CDC recommend storing at least a three-day supply of water, enough for at least one gallon per person per day. See our blog about emergency water storage for more information. It is also a good idea to stockpile a portable water filter. Many of these filters now have the capability to remove contaminants like bacteria, heavy metals, and other potentially harmful pollutants, making water from any source drinkable. These filters can substitute storing water or can serve as a back-up if the water supplies are depleted.
Hurricane Sandy is a good example of how a natural disaster can limit the basic necessities that we take for granted. It is important for everyone to learn from this event and be better prepared.