The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the National Weather Service have declared the week of March 23 through March 27, 2015 Severe Weather Awareness Week. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an annual event to remind Iowans that severe weather is part of living in our state and that understanding the risks and how to respond to them can save lives. Each morning during severe weather awareness week, we’ll be focusing on a different severe weather topic. The topics this year include:
- Monday – Flash Flooding
- Tuesday – Warning Reception
- Wednesday – Tornadoes
- Thursday – Severe Thunderstorms
- Friday – Family Preparedness
Disasters of all kinds disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property. If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you. But you need to be ready as well. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere. Being prepared for a disaster can reduce the fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany them.
Key Elements of a Disaster Plan
There are five key elements of a disaster plan:
- Learn about possible dangers in your area and become familiar with your community’s disaster response plan.
- Talk to your family about what to do in the event of an emergency. Pick two locations where you will meet: one close to your home and another removed from your neighborhood to be used if you are unable to return to your residence.
- Develop a communications plan to insure that your family will be able to stay in contact if separated during a disaster.
- Create disaster kits for your home, office, and car.
- Practice your plan!
Assembling a Disaster Kit
A disaster kit is a collection of basic items that members of a household may need in the event of a disaster. An effective disaster kit contains enough food, water and other supplies for each person to last at least three days. You may want to consider having supplies for sheltering for up to two weeks, especially if you live in remote areas. Here is a basic list of items to include in a kit:
- Bottled water and non-perishable food
- Battery or hand crank radio
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First Aid supplies
- Clothing, shoes and blankets
- Cash and coins
- Photocopies of important family documents such as ID’s and credit cards
- Baby needs
- Sanitation items such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper
- Specialty items such as prescription medication and eyeglasses
- Local Maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
- Games to pass time
Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
A good first aid kit is essential to any home and is imperative in a disaster supply kit. In an emergency, you or a family member may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies, you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt. Here are some items which should be included in any first aid kit. This is not an exhaustive list.
- Prescription medication that you take every day (be sure to periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates)
- Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
- Scissors and tweezers
- Antiseptic and anti-bacterial ointment
- Burn ointment
- Cleansing agent/soap
- Latex gloves
- Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
- Anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, and laxative
In Your Vehicle
Be prepared for an emergency by keeping your gas tank full and carry a cell phone when driving. If you find yourself stranded, be safe and stay in your car, turn on your flashers, call for help, and wait until it arrives.
Here is a short video from FEMA about what a vehicle safety kit should include.
Develop a Family Evacuation Plan
Evacuations are more common than people realize. Hundreds of times each year, transportation and industrial accidents release harmful substances, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. Fires and floods cause evacuations even more frequently.
Tips for a good evacuation plan:
- Plan routes from your residence to a safe location.
- Plan for what you would need to take with you should you need to leave your home for an unknown period of time.
- Ensure all family members know where to go should you become separated.
- Radio messages will inform you of specific routes and shelter areas should a major incident occur.
If you should be evacuated, it is important to follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts as they may be blocked. Be alert for washed-out roads, bridges and downed power lines. If you have time, be sure to secure your home before leaving and let others know where you are going.
Don’t Forget Pets!
If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your family, so make plans for your pets too! For public health reasons, most shelters do not accept pets. Prepare a list of kennels, friends, and family members who may be able to care for your pet in an emergency. Pack an emergency kit for your pets as well. This kit should include a supply of pet food, water, medications, veterinary records, and items like cat litter. Make sure identification tags are up to date and securely fastened to your pet’s collar. It is also a good idea to have a photograph of you and your pet as this can establish ownership if your pet is lost.
Prepare Your Home
There are numerous steps you can take in and around your home to help limit the damage done by severe weather. Consider taking the following actions before severe weather blows through town.
Thunderstorms and Strong Winds:
- Remove dead or rotting tree branches that could fall and cause injury or damage.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors.
- Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
- Consider installing sewer back-flow valves.
- Add waterproof veneer to exterior walls.