This time of year we are surrounded with fire safety messages; what to do to prepare your home, what items or “valuables” to pack for a possible evacuation, where to call for updated information, Reverse 911 and more.
While all of this information is critical to being safe during Southern California’s “fire season,” the messages and precautions are relevant all year long.
According to the “Family Disaster Plan,” developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, there are four steps to safety when it comes to preparing for disasters: Learn, Create, Practice, Checklist.
Find out what could happen to you in a disaster by contacting your local Red Cross or emergency management office. Ask what types of disasters are more likely to happen in your area, and get specific information about each type.
Find out how to help the elderly or disabled, and if you have pets, how to care for them during and after a disaster. And so that you are prepared outside of the home, learn your workplace disaster plans, your children’s school or day care center plans, and those where your family spends time.
Ask an out-of-town friend or relative to be your contact.
Following a disaster, family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know the contact’s phone numbers. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long distance call than a local call from a disaster area
Creating a disaster plan is also essential to ensuring that everyone works as a team. Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster, and don’t be afraid to explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children. Explain what to do in the case of each kind of catastrophe that may happen. Pick two places to meet; right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire; outside your neighborhood or a mutually agreed upon location in case you cannot return home.
Practice and maintain your plan by quizzing children every six months or so. Conduct fire and emergency evacuations. Replace stored water and stored food every six months. Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions, and lastly, test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
Complete this checklist to ensure disaster readiness
— Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
— Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
— Show each family member how and when to turn off the utilities (water, gas, and electricity) at the main switches.
— Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
— Learn how to use a fire extinguisher.
— Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
— Stock emergency supplies and assemble a “Survival Kit.”
— Take a first aid and CPR class.
— Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
— Find the safe places in your home for each type of disaster.
Stock up – six basics
There are also six basics you should stock for your home: water, food, individual survival kit, tools and emergency supplies, clothing and bedding and special items such as important family documents. Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to carry container such as a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack, or a large duffle bag.
— Water: Store one-gallon plastic containers of water per person per day — enough for three days.
— Food: Store at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. If you must heat food, pack a can of sterno. Select food items that are compact and lightweight such as ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables, canned juices and high energy foods.
Individual survival kit
Assemble a first aid kit for your home, each family member, and one for each car.
Tools and supplies: paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils, battery-operated radio and extra batteries, flashlight and extra batteries, cash or traveler’s checks, change, non-electric can opener, utility knife, fire extinguisher: small canister ABC type, pliers, tape, matches in a waterproof container, aluminum foil, plastic storage containers, signal flare, paper, pencil.
Clothing and bedding: Include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person, blankets.
Important family documents
Keep these records in a waterproof container:
— Will, insurance policies, contracts deeds, stocks and bonds
— Passports, social security cards, immunization records
— Bank account numbers
— Credit card account numbers and companies
— Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers
— Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
Store your kit contents in a convenient place known to all family members.
Find out the many ways you would be notified of a disaster in your area. Log on to ReadySanDiego.org and register your cell phone and e-mail to alert you of a disaster. www.readysandiego.org.
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