Natural Disaster Preparedness
The term “natural disaster” can refer to tornadoes, severe weather, extreme heat, hail and storms, drought and floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. Each year, many of us in Ohio are impacted by the results of severe weather such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Research statistics from 2012 show there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries in the U.S.
Every state in the U.S. has experienced tornadoes and severe weather, but some areas of the country including Ohio are more at risk than others. You can and should take steps to prepare for when severe weather strikes in your area. Knowing the most common weather hazards you may encounter, your vulnerability, and what actions you should take can save your life and others. The risks vary depending on the season and where you live in Ohio. The more prepared you can be in advance, the less stress you will experience should a natural disaster occur.
In preparation for any natural disaster, it is important to put together an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. A disaster supplies kit is simply a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. Assemble your family’s kit well in advance of an emergency. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essential items with you. You will probably not have time to search for the supplies you need or shop for important items.
You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means you need your own food, enough water and other important supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You might get help within hours or it could take days.
The biggest concern for most families is that you may not be together when a tornado, severe storm or other natural disaster is in effect. If there is time to get everyone home safely then that is priority. It is important to plan in advance as to how you will get to a safe place and how you will contact one another. If separated, determine how you will get back together and outline what you will do in different situations.
Here are some facts to educate your family about: Tornadoes are formed from powerful thunderstorms and can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. Appearing as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, a tornado extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with devastating winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile by 50 miles long.
While some tornadoes are clearly visible, others can be obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds. Tornadoes can develop so rapidly that little advance warning is possible. A tell-tale sign may be before a tornado hits, the wind dies down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris may mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes are more likely to occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. Sometimes a clear, sunlit sky can be seen behind a tornado.
In this day and age, we are so dependent on our electronic devices, but use your eyes too and learn to rely on your senses. Always be watchful of changing weather conditions. Look to the skies for signs of approaching storms. Seek safe refuge if you witness dark, often greenish skies, large hail, big dark, low-lying clouds. A loud roar, similar to a freight train, often precipitates a tornado. If you see or hear any of these danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to a commercial radio station and television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by your local emergency officials.
Extreme heat can be overlooked as a “natural disaster” but can be equally dangerous to other hazardous weather conditions. During really hot weather heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its physiological limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body has to work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening if proper precautions are not taken.
Most heat disorders happen because the victim has been exposed to heat for a prolonged period of time. Over exertion can also cause people to be overcome by extreme heat, including exercising beyond your age and physical condition limitations. Use caution – older adults, young children and babies are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.
Conditions that can cause heat-related sicknesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. As a result, city dwellers are at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas. Asphalt and concrete store heat and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures than normal known as the “urban heat island effect.”
If you don’t have central air, install window air conditioners. Make sure they fit tight and insulate around the unit if necessary. Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in your home. You can also install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside. Cover windows that receive afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)
Keep tabs on those in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need your help. Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
Inquire about emergency plans in place at locations where your family spends time: work, daycare and school, churches, camps, sports organizations and commuting. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to community leaders, your colleagues, neighbors and members of faith or civic organizations about how you can work together in the event of an emergency.
Your basic services that we all take for granted, such as electricity, gas, water, sewage and phone service may be cut off for days or weeks, or longer in worst case scenerios. Your emergency supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages
If you have enough clean water, allow people to drink according to their needs. Some people need even more than the average of one gallon of water per day. The individual amount varies according to age, physical activity, physical condition and time of year. Never ration drinking water unless ordered to do so by authorities. Drink as much as you need each day and try to find more for tomorrow. Under no circumstances should people drink less than one quart (four cups) of water per day. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool. Drink water that you know is not contaminated. If needed, suspicious water, such as cloudy water from regular faucets or water from streams or ponds, can be used after it has been treated. If you are unable to safely treat the water, put off drinking suspicious water as long as possible, but do not allow yourself or your family to become dehydrated. Don’t drink carbonated beverages in lieu of drinking water. Pop does not meet drinking-water requirements. Caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea dehydrate the body as does alcohol.and should be avoided.
You will need to protect the water sources already in your home from contamination if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines or if local officials advise you of a problem. To close the main water line, locate the incoming valve and turn it to the closed position. Be sure you and your family members know how to perform this important procedure.
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