Preparedness Begins at Home

2016-05-12
Meteorological Spring began March 1st and with it comes a heightened emphasis on severe weather safety and preparation. 2016 has seen an increased number of tornadoes and other severe weather events over the past few years. Is that a predictor of spring weather? One answer is…it only takes one.

It only takes one tornado or severe storm to change lives forever. It only takes one to cause millions of dollars of damage. It only takes one to impact the economy of a community. It only takes one to destroy infrastructure, schools, churches, parks, public buildings, etc.

Photo by Author
Photo by Rick Atterberry

As we remind ourselves of safety precautions, we recognize that being prepared can impact survivability reducing deaths and injuries. Damage to property can be mitigated by employing proper construction techniques.

Many states observe Severe Weather Preparedness Weeks in the spring. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Ready Nation efforts consolidate information on best practices.

Beyond that information, now is a good time to review threats that are specific to a given location. Is the area prone to flooding, especially flash floods? Are outdoor sports venues equipped with lightning detectors? Are evacuation and sheltering policies in place?

FEMA
FEMA

Another important piece of information is local protocols for operation of outdoor warning sirens. In general, these sirens are NOT necessarily intended to be heard inside homes and businesses. Some communities sound an all clear. In others, a second activation of the sirens means the threat is continuing for an additional period of time. Some locations employ sirens for flash flooding, nuclear power plant issues, tsunamis and other threats. Be aware of local policies. Always have an alternate way of receiving severe weather information…the All-Hazards Weather Radio System, warning apps, web-based warning systems.

Personal preparedness is everyone’s responsibility. Review shelter areas at home and at work. Create appropriate “Go Kits” for each location plus vehicles. Devise a communications plan to aid in reunification of families and co-workers. Be aware of those in the neighborhood or workplace with special needs who may need your assistance. And, always, be extra vigilant when severe weather is a possibility. A community can only be as prepared as its residents.

Being Prepared is Part of Who You Are

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Preparedness Begins at Home

Youth and Disasters

traumaPost by Lynette Black, 4-H Youth Development Faculty, Oregon State University

When it comes to the effects of disasters, children are a vulnerable population. Understanding the unique needs of children and including these needs in disaster planning will help them better cope with life following the disaster. Let’s take a look at this unique population.

They Rely on Adults

Children are physically and emotionally dependent on the caring adults in their lives. During disasters they will turn to the adult to keep them safe. If the adults are unprepared, the children are left vulnerable both physically and emotionally. This means child care providers, educators, afterschool providers, coaches and other caring adults need to be prepared with disaster plans that include knowledge of how to respond to disasters, comprehensive evacuation plans, and safe and efficient family reunification plans.

They are Not Small Adults

Children are more susceptible to the hazards caused by disasters due to their underdeveloped bodies and brains. Their skin is thinner, they take more breaths per minute, they are closer to the ground, the require more fluids per pound, and they need to eat more often; leaving the child more vulnerable to physical harm from the disaster. In addition, their brains are not fully developed leading to limited understanding of what they experienced and possible prolonged mental health issues. Since children take their cures from their caring adult, the adult’s reactions and responses can either add to or minimize the child’s stress level. Preparations for disasters need to include not only survival kits including first aid supplies for the physical body, but also teaching children (and their adults) stress reducing coping skills for positive mental health.

Their Routine Equals Comfort

Children need routine to help them make sense of their world. Keeping the child’s schedule as consistent as possible following a disaster is crucial to their sense of well-being. The reopening of school, afterschool and recreational programming as soon as possible adds stability the child’s life. Helping families return to a routine known to the child (snack time, bed time, story time) is of utmost importance and helps the child find a new norm post-disaster.

They are At Risk

At particular risk for prolonged mental health and substance abuse issues is the adolescent population. Their brains are in a developmental stage where, in simple terms, the executive function is underdeveloped leaving the emotional part of the brain in charge. This causes this age group to “act without thinking” and feel emotions more intensely than other ages. Disasters increase the typical teen emotions and behaviors leading to greater risk taking, impulsivity and recklessness. They also suffer from increased anxiety and depression and can develop cognitive/concentration difficulties. The caring adults in an adolescent’s life can help recovery by being available to them; listen without judgment, stay calm, serve as a good role model, encourage involvement in community recovery work and resumption of regular social and recreational activities. Understand that with adolescents the effects of the disaster may last longer and may even reappear later in life.

Disasters and traumatic events touch all of us, but can have a particularly traumatic effect on children. The good news is most children will recover, especially if the caring adults in their lives take the steps before, during and after the event to provide basic protective factors and to restore or preserve normalcy in their lives.

See Lynette’s webinar on this topic. If you are a childcare provider, you may also be interested in this online course on disaster preparedness for childcare providers.

View Impacts of Disaster on Youth Webcast

Seven Reasons to be Prepared for Disaster

7reasonsDo you think a disaster won’t happen to you? Or, do you think it might, but there’s nothing you can do? This article is for you and anyone else needing a reason to be prepared for disaster! Would you like to print this list? Here you go!

 

1. Save Money

Save moneyYes, you can save money by being prepared. If you understand your community’s greatest risks, you can take steps to make your home and property more resistant. For example, you may qualify for a reduced insurance rate if your home and property are resistant to damage from weather-related or other types of disasters. You may also have fewer damages to repair if disaster does strike. What risks do you face? Enter your ZIP code to find out on DisasterSafety.org (scroll down to Discover the risks you face).   Check with your county or parish Emergency Management Agency for local specifics, and then take action to save money by being prepared.


2. Recover Faster

asterThinking through what you’ll do and recording those steps in your family disaster plan (see reason # 7) make it easier for you to recover after a disaster hits. For example, does everyone in your household know what to do if a flash flood is about to affect your home and property?

3. Avoid or Reduce Damage

3Look around your home and property. What can you do to reduce potential damage from a disaster? You can strengthen your house structure to protect against a shift from flood or wind forces, develop a firewise landscape, take steps to prevent home fires, and take other actions to make your home and property more secure.

4. Keep in Touch with Family

4Be sure that each family member’s cell phone includes emergency and family phone numbers. Teach everyone to text message. During an emergency, it may be easier to contact others via text message than it is via a call. Also keep an up-to-date paper list of key phone numbers. If power is out and your cell phone is not charged, you will still be able to locate a needed phone number. It’s easier to contact relatives during a disaster if you’ve created a contact list before the disaster. They’ll want to know that you’re okay, so have a plan for notifying them. That plan may include contacting a designated out-of-state relative or friend who will let others know your status. You might also use the American Red Cross Safe and  Well website.


5. Survive on your Own

5This is where emergency kits come in handy. No matter where you are, it may be a while before emergency responders can reach you. Here’s a starting list for your household supply kit.

6. Retain Important Papers

6Financial records, property records, legal records, and family records are important to you and your family. But are they filed and stored so you can easily find the important papers after a disaster—or when you’re evacuating? These papers will make it easier for you to recover. Here are some tips on organizing, managing, and accessing your papers.

7. Avoid Panic

7Create a family disaster plan. Having a plan can help your family make it through any disaster with minimal stress. A comprehensive family disaster plan includes information about each family member, household pets, insurance and finances, and the home itself and its contents. Most important, the plan outlines what each family member should do during an emergency and identifies safe places inside and outside the home. Here’s a family disaster plan template from the University of Missouri Extension.

What are some reasons you have found for being prepared for disaster?


 

And here’s a pin for you, too.

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