After a disaster occurs, you may be in your home, in a public shelter in your community, camping outside in a self-made shelter or far away from your home. No matter where you are, it is probable that many other people are experiencing what you are going through. You will be glad that you and the other members of your household made a plan and practiced it.
No matter where you are after a disaster, you should:
- Remain calm and patient. This will help you move safely and avoid delays or accidents caused by irrational behavior. Many people will be trying to accomplish the same things you are for the safety of their families. Patience will help everyone get through a difficult situation more easily.
- Put your Family Disaster Plan into action.
- Listen to local radio or television or HAM Radio for news and instructions.
- Check for injuries. Take care of yourself first. Then, give first aid and get help for seriously injured people until emergency responders arrive. Whenever possible, have CERT members or Medically Trained Personnel provide assessment, triage, first aid and transportation of injured person.
Help people who require special assistance – infants, elderly people, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help, people with disabilities and the people who take care of them.
If you are at home, or when you return home, you should:
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Disaster areas and debris contain many hazards. The most common injury following disasters is cut feet.
- Check for damage in your home. Disasters can cause extensive damage, sometimes in places you least expect. Look carefully for any potential hazards.
- Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings.
- Do NOT use candles. Candles can easily cause fires. They are quiet and easily forgotten. They can tip over during earthquake aftershocks or in a gust of wind. Candles invite fire play by children.
- Look for fire hazards, such as broken or leaking gas / propane lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances.
- Check for gas/propane leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone outside quickly. Turn off the gas or propane at the outside main valve if you can and if phone service is available, call the gas company from a neighbor’s home.
- Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
If you have no electricity
- Take precautions to keep food safe
- Check for damage to sewage and water lines. If you suspect sewage or septic lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and drains. If water pipes are damaged, avoid using water from the tap and drink melted ice cubes or water from your disaster storage.
- Clean up spills immediately. Especially important to clean up are spilled medicines, bleach, gasoline, and other flammable liquids.
- Watch for loose plaster and ceiling that could fall.
- Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
- Watch animals closely. Keep all your animals under your direct control. Pets may become disoriented, particularly if the disaster has affected scent markers that normally allow them to find their homes. Pets may be able to escape from your home or your fence may be broken. Be aware of hazards at nose and paw or hoof level, particularly debris, spilled chemicals, fertilizers and other substances that might not seem to be dangerous to humans. In addition, the behavior of pets may change dramatically after an earthquake or fire. Be aware of their well-being and take measures to protect them from hazards, including displaced wild animals, and to ensure the safety of other people and animals.
- Let your out-of-town contact know you have returned home and then do not use the telephone again during the emergency period unless it is to report a life-threatening emergency. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations preventing emergency calls from getting through.
- Make sure you have an adequate water supply in case water is unavailable. Have at minimum 3 – 7 day supply; 3 – 7 gallons per person. More is better, especially for those of us who live in the mountains. Don’t forget water that is needed for your animals and for sanitation.
- Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately. If you see downed power lines, set out a flare or otherwise stop traffic and stay on the scene to warn others until authorities arrive on the scene.
Staying Safe After a Disaster