Home disaster plans
The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” holds true in disasters, too. Every family should have and practice a disaster plan. Make it a family project. The plan will work only if everyone knows what is in it and what they are supposed to do.
Consider the types of disasters we might experience in West Texas. In our community, we need to think about severe weather, flash flooding, hazardous materials spills, wildfires, etc. Your home may be more vulnerable to one or more of these hazards, depending upon your location. Discuss and plan with your family how you should respond to each of these situations. Know how the emergency warning system works here in San Angelo.
Consider the special needs of your family. Do you have elderly family members who need special help to evacuate if it becomes necessary to leave your home? Do you own pets? If so, you need to plan for them, too. Because of public health concerns, San Angelo's community emergency shelters cannot accept pets. However, we will offer alternatives for pet owners if shelters are opened.
Once you’ve done your homework, create the plan. The key points to the plan should include:
- Have at least two ways out of your house.
- Designate at least two meeting places for your family. One place should be immediately outside the home and the other should be some other place outside the neighborhood in case you cannot get to your home.
Have a communications plan. Ask an out-of-state friend or family member to be your family contact. (During a disaster, it is sometimes easier to make a long-distance call than a local call.) Make sure everyone in the family knows the family contact’s phone number.
Post emergency phone numbers (fire, police, etc) at a designated place in your home.
Teach your children how and when to call 911.
Locate shutoffs for water, gas and electricity to your home. Teach all family members how to turn them off in an emergency.
Build a home disaster kit.
Make a schedule to check and replace batteries in smoke detectors. (Check them monthly. Replace batteries at least annually).
Home disaster kits
In addition to having a home disaster plan, one of the best things you can do for your family is creating a home disaster kit. In this kit, place food, water and other supplies you will need to make it on your own for at least three days. Think about the essentials; food, fresh water, clean air and essential medications should be your priority. Your kit should be assembled in a container that is easy to store and carry. Consider having two kits: one to be used if you are staying in place, and another, lighter version you can grab if you evacuate your home.
Here are building blocks for a good home disaster kit:
- Food – Store food that will not go bad and that your family will eat. Include a variety of items such as protein bars, canned fruit and juices, dry cereals, peanut butter and baby food. Remember to pack related items such as a manual can opener, paper cups and plates, and eating utensils. Again, you want enough food on hand to feed you and your family for three days.
- Water – Store at least one gallon of drinking water per person per day. In fact, here in West Texas where hot weather is so prevalent, consider storing even more water per person.
- Basic supplies - Your kit should include a flashlight, a battery-powered radio (an NOAA weather or all-hazards radio would be a great addition), batteries, a first-aid kit, a utility knife, a local map, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, facemasks (paper painter’s masks at a minimum), soap, sanitation supplies, garbage bags, plastic sheeting, duct tape, extra cash, picture identification.
- Warmth - Include a change of clothing, sturdy shoes, a blanket and a jacket for each person. Space permitting, consider storing a sleeping bag for each person.
- Special Items - Most families have unique needs. Pack diapers, baby formula, baby bottles, prescription medicines, pet food, books, pens, paper, decks of cards or other entertainment items as they apply to your family.
Regularly rotate items that have a limited shelf life such as the prescription medicines, batteries, water and food.
Each year, extreme winds such as those associated with tornadoes injure and kill people in the U.S. and cause severe property damage. The safe room concept was developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University for the purpose of developing affordable yet sturdy shelters within single-family homes.The safe room is a structure that is built specifically to withstand strong winds and flying debris. They are usually just large enough for your family, such as a walk-in closet. Safe rooms are not designed to protect against rising flood water.
Safe rooms may be retrofitted into existing houses or built as an add-on or as a separate structure. If you are considering building a new home, adding a safe room is an excellent investment.
Pet disaster plans
Pets depend upon us for their safety, especially during a disaster. Unfortunately, because of public health concerns, pets cannot be allowed in public shelters if you to evacuate your home. Leaving your pets at home and unattended is not a good option either. If you must evacuate, you should evacuate your pets, too. Having a pet disaster plan is an important part of your overall home disaster plan. Here are some key points to help manage pets during times of disaster:
Before the disaster
- Make sure pets are current on all vaccinations. Most facilities that accept pets require proof their shots are up-to-date.
- Keep a collar with identification on your pet at all times.
- Have a leash for every pet.
- Keep a current photograph on hand of every pet.
- Have a pet carrier of the proper size for each pet.
- Make sure your identification information is on all pet carriers, leashes, etc.
- Plan for the evacuation of pets. Think of friends, relatives and kennels in more than one location that could take your pets in an emergency. Work these locations into your evacuation route planning.
During the disaster
- Be prepared to show proper ID, rabies tags, etc. at the pet shelter for each animal.
- Bring ample pet food, bottled water, food bowls, special care instructions, and any pet medications with you. Continue to feed your pet the foods it is accustomed to. Also bring newspapers or trash bags for clean-up.
- Call ahead to make sure there will be room at the shelter for your pet.
After the disaster
- Walk pets frequently on a leash. The unfamiliar scents and landmarks can disorient your pet and it could get lost if let off its leash. In addition, after a disaster there may be unusual hazards that could pose significant risk to a roaming pet, such as downed power lines.
- Monitor your pet’s behavior. Some animals can become aggressive or defensive after a disaster.
- If you cannot locate your pet after a disaster, contact animal control. Come by to see what animals have been recovered. If possible, bring a photograph of your pet.