Family Disaster Supply List and Tips
by Irene Long
Please note: These tips assume that in a major disaster emergency service providers will be overwhelmed and that you will be unsuccessful in your attempts to reach 9-1-1.
- Drinking water – you can only survive 4 days without drinking water. Store at least 5 cases (14gallons) of bottled water per person for post-disaster use. Pregnant and nursing mothers, the elderly, and infants and young children, as well as those living in hot climates or who expect to be engaged in physical activity in disaster response, need twice that much water. Don’t forget your pets and large animals need water too.
- Shelter – you can only survive for 4 hours without maintaining your body temperature. Do what you can NOW to prevent your home from becoming uninhabitable in a major disaster. Have a plan for where you will go or what you will do if you cannot safely live in or return to your home.
If your home is unsafe yet your neighborhood is safe, a tent or an RV can allow you to “shelter in place” on your own property among your neighbors. If the streets are passable and you can leave the affected area, you may be able to seek short-term refuge at the home of friends or relatives who live outside the affected area. If stranded far from home your vehicle can become your temporary shelter. If the streets are not passable and you have no other option, you can seek very temporary refuge at a public disaster relief shelter.
- Fire extinguisher(s) – keep at least one on every story of your home and workplace. Make sure they are accessible and near potential sources of fire like the kitchen, garage, and laundry room. WARNING: The smoke from a fire can overwhelm you in as little as 2.5 minutes. So your highest priority is to sound the alarm and get everyone out of the building ASAP and then call 9-1-1.
In a major disaster you’ll want to extinguish small fires, if it is safe to do so. Remember this memory jogger: “In case of fire, eye P.A.S.S. out.”
- Eye – size up the fire and determine if it is of the right type, as well as small enough, to fight with your extinguisher. If it is, while keeping a safe distance from the flames:
- Pull the safety pin and briefly squeeze the trigger to test the extinguisher before approaching the fire
- Aim at the base of the fire NOT at the flames
- Squeeze the trigger and
- Sweep the nozzle back and forth across the base of the fire.
- Out – ALWAYS keep a way out (an exit) at your back.
If it is not safe to extinguish the fire, or if you do not successfully extinguish the fire, IMMEDIATELY get out. Close doors behind you as you leave to help slow the spread of the fire.
- Utility shut off tool(s) – choose either a multi-purpose tool designed for shutting off the water main and gas valve or an adjustable wrench. (You will need a wrench plus a screwdriver for water main shut off). Whenever you suspect or know there is a gas leak, IMMEDIATELY get out of the building or area. To turn Off gas or water service, turn the shut off valve 90 degrees or until it is perpendicular to the pipe. If you have a faucet-like valve turn the valve in a clockwise direction (“righty tighty”) until it can no longer be turned. DO NOT shut off the gas service unless you suspect or know there is a leak. DO NOT attempt to restore gas service unless trained to do so.
Shut off tool storage and maintenance tips:
o WARNING: If you choose to store a metal shut off tool on your gas meter, make sure that the tool DOES NOT bridge the plastic pipe “safety gap” between the metal parts of your meter. Also put the shut off tool in a zip-close plastic bag to help prevent rust.
o If you plan to use an adjustable metal wrench, open it to a size slightly larger than the shut off valve to store it. Then, if it does rust or freezes up while stored, you can still use it when needed.
o Twice a year check to make sure the shut off valves have not frozen in place by moving them SLIGHTLY to the right and left and then back in line with (parallel with) the pipe.
o WARNING: If you accidentally turn the gas shut off valve perpendicular to the pipe, call your gas service provider to request professional restoration of service. Most providers will not charge for this service.
- 5-gallon Buckets – you’ll want to become a 3-bucket family:
1. Keep at least one (preferably more) 5-gallon bucket with lid in new condition, never putting any chemicals or organic materials in the bucket(s), so they can be used to collect and store drinking water.
2. Keep another bucket for bathing, washing dishes and doing laundry.
3. Another bucket with lid can serve as an emergency toilet until water and sewer service is restored. Double line it with plastic bags and put the lid on it between uses to avoid creating a drowning hazard for toddlers and small children.
- Plastic sheeting & duct tape – in a major disaster it may take months before enough materials are available to replace broken windows. Clear plastic sheeting duct taped over broken window and door openings can keep out the wind, rain, insects, birds, and rodents. Plastic sheeting can also serve as emergency shelter. Opaque plastic sheeting can be used to build privacy shields for bathing and portable latrines. Remember that plastic sheeting can present a suffocation hazard especially to small children.
More to come…