BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — September is National Preparedness month, and as such, there’s no better time to begin putting plans into place in case the worst does happen. And in the last days of the summer months and into the fires of fall and the chill of winter, the concerns regarding disasters that can occur as a result of freezing temperatures are only rising by the day.
Of course, disaster preparedness isn’t just about protecting yourself. Homes, pets, and families are all hugely important things to consider when putting preparations into effect. To help people remember the most important aspects when it comes to any form of disaster preparation, Dunn County Emergency Management has released a series of Facebook posts that have issued a series of tasks to the families of North Dakota that will help them be prepared in the unlikely event of a disaster. The department intends on adding a tip each day until there is one disaster preparedness tip for every day in September.
Here is the current list of tips from Dunn County Emergency Management:
#1: Create a Family Disaster Plan
Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disasters. Discuss the types that are most likely to happen, and explain what to do in each situation. It’s important that everyone knows what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disasters ahead of time will help to reduce fear and anxiety, and help everyone know how to respond. Remember to review these plans from time to time.
#2: Work Around Power Outages
Think about the things you and your family would need to stay safe if your power, cell service, or internet went out for a long period of time, at least a day or week. Be sure to update your plans and supplies to be better prepared for such an occasion.
#3: Meeting Place
Identify two locations, a primary and an alternate location, that your family can meet in case of an emergency near your home in the event you can’t access the house. Ideally, choose a site that offers refreshments and seating in case waiting is necessary (a restaurant, park, or shelter is ideal). Make sure every member of the family knows the address and phone number of the meeting location.
#4: Escape Routes
Identify and become familiar with escape routes in your home, work, or community in the event of all sorts of disasters (fire, flood, tornado, etc.) Evacuation may be necessary. Plan primary and alternative routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed. Remember to follow advice of local officials during evacuation. Never drive over or around barricades, and always remain calm during evacuations.
Don’t forget to prepare a plan for your animals as well. Plan where to take or send pets if you go to a public shelter where they aren’t allowed. Make sure you have a kennel, leash, and harness for small animals. In the case of larger animals (horses, cows, etc.), know how you will evacuate with them and where to take them for short and long periods of time.
Educate family members on how and when to turn off the utilities (water, gas, electricity, etc.) at the main switches and valves. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves. Only turn off utilities if you suspect leaks or damages, or are instructed to do so by authorities. Remember that you will need a professional to turn the gas back on after turning it off. Paint shut-off valves with white or fluorescent paint to increase visibility.
Ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage. Ask your insurance agent to review your current policies to see if they will cover your home and belongings adequately. Remember that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood losses, and if you rent, landlord’s insurance doesn’t protect personal property. Contacting your insurance agent about renter’s insurance is strongly advised.
#8: Smoke Alarms
Install smoke alarms on each level of your home near bedrooms. With all the petroleum-based products in households, residents only have an average of 5 minutes to escape a fire. Working smoke alarms increase your chances of survival in a home fire by 50%. Smoke alarms sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air. They can detect both smoldering and flaming fires.
#9: Fire Extinguishers
Check with your local fire department to see if they provide training on how to use your fire extinguisher (A-B-C types) and ensure that all family members know where the extinguishers are kept. Different extinguishers operate in different ways. Only adults should handle and operate extinguishers. Most fire departments are more than willing to come out to their local neighborhoods or associations to discuss fire safety when requested.
#10: Home Hazard Hunt
Conduct a ‘Home Hazard Hunt’ — find items that could move, fall, or break during a disaster. Take note of potential hazards, and work to disaster-proof or render them safer. Be sure to conduct this hunt at least once a year.
#11: Disaster Supply Kit
Stock emergency supplies and assemble your own disaster supply kit containing the supplies you need in case of an evacuation. Keep enough supplies in your home to meet needs for at least three days (food, water, medications). Store your emergency supplies in clearly-labeled, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks. Note that you may not have time to pack in an emergency, so having supplies ready to grab and go will make all the difference.
#12: Home Safety Checklist:
Create an at-home safety checklist, and conduct a safety check at least once a year to fix potential safety hazards. Look for frayed wires on electrical devices. Test smoke and monoxide alarms. Ensure cooking and candle-burning areas are neat and clean, evacuation routes are clear, and your heating systems are safe.
Tips on the Dunn County Emergency Management Facebook page appear daily, so be sure to follow either the page or this article on KX to receive the latest information on disaster preparation.
#13: Supply Kit:
Keep a small Disaster Supply Kit in the trunk of your car. You can use a tote bag, purse, duffel bag, or any container that can hold up in North Dakota weather. Keep emergency food, water, medication, survival tools, and comfort items in the kit. More information on supply kits is available here.
Keep a portable, battery-operated radio or television and extra batteries handy at all times. It’s important to always have a link to the outside world in case a disaster occurs. Make sure all family members know where the emergency radio or television is located, as well as where a supply of extra batteries is present.
Be prepared to shelter in place. This may be required if you need to remain at home due to natural disasters or harmful chemical releases. You may also need to seal the room to prevent outside air from coming in. More information regarding shelter-in-place orders can be found here.
#16: Warning Options:
When it comes to danger, ignorance may not be bliss. Be sure to keep in touch with local weather stations like KX to stay up-to-date. Dunn County in particular uses a platform called Everbridge to send out weather alerts through phone or text.
Choose containers to hold your emergency supplies for any situation. Make sure your home emergency kit is prepared in a proper storage box with a sealable lid. Some recommended emergency supply containers include:
- Plastic tubs or boxes with sealable lids
- 5-gallon plastic buckets with lids
- Small to medium-sized travel bags with wheels
- Ice Chests
- Tuff Boxes
It is recommended to have a kit in an easy-to-carry bag with a shoulder strap for added convenience. You don’t need to purchase anything extra — just use the best storage supplies you own.
#18: Family Communication Plan:
Prepare your family communication and rallying point in advance. Select an area where you and your family can meet if you are unable to enter your home. It’s important that everyone knows to meet at the area without a reminder, as at times cell phone towers and reception may be down. More information about family communication plans is available here.
While the body can last for weeks without food, water is an absolute necessity daily. Dehydration can seriously impair one’s thinking and body functions. A three-day supply of water is recommended for all individuals in a household, with one gallon per day if evacuating, or a 2-week supply for sheltering in place. Stocking up on sanitation wipes is also advised to help reduce the need for water to clean products. More information about water use in emergencies can be found at ready.gov.
When it comes to food, focus on foods that provide plenty of protein, fiber, and energy. Look for meals with extended shelf lives, and always pack a manual can opener. Some recommended emergency foods include the following:
- Peanut Butter
- Whole Wheat Crackers (they serve as a bread substitute and last longer)
- Nuts, Trail Mix, Cereal, Granola and Power Bars
- Dried Fruits
- Canned Meats, Vegetables, and Soups
- Powdered Sports Drinks and Milk
- Sugar, Salt and Pepper
- Freeze-Dried Food
- MRE (Meals Ready To Eat)
More information about emergency food can also be found at ready.gov.
Shelter is defined as anything that protects you from the elements and allows you to recharge. If you are sheltering in place, this is not a concern, but it should be in case you need to evacuate. Choose an alternate location to shelter- a hotel, inn, or family/friend’s home. If these aren’t available, a campground may serve as a good alternative, and as such camping gear is a recommended addition to your safety kit.
In regards to clothing for shelter, clothing items with little maintenance and provide coverage from inclement weather (like sunglasses, rain ponchos, and gloves) are advised.
In the event of an emergency, make sure your travel plans and vehicles work. Ensure your vehicle is up-to-date with maintenance in case you need to travel long distances to evacuate. If you have to walk from your residence to a safe zone, bring a good pair of hiking boots, a compass, and a map, and have a pre-determined route and destination point. Consider both backup routes and the number of supplies that will be needed for any trip.
During a disaster, communication means more than communicating with your family. Hand-crank, battery, and solar-powered radios would be a good idea to allow you to keep your family informed of news and vital information. If you’re far out in the country or in a crowded area, it might be helpful to pack ways of signaling to first responders in emergency situations, like glow sticks, flares, flashlights, or signal mirrors. Waving your arms above your head is also a good way to alert responders to your position without purchasing any additional tools.
#24: First Aid:
Consider burns, cuts, sprains, stings, and any other basic injuries one can expect in your first aid kit, as well as any medications you need. As drug stores may not be open, medicine for fevers, allergies, coughs, and pain should be included. Bring other basic supplies such as insect repellant and sunscreen in case you need to be outside in an emergency situation. Ensure you and your family know how to use all items in the kit. The Red Cross has an article regarding first aid and kits and what to place in them here.
Talk to your children about preparing for emergencies, and have them begin to think about dealing with them with a positive attitude. Try to tailor the conversation to what is appropriate for their age. In order to help quite literally ‘break the ice’ when it comes to disaster preparedness, the Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have come together to make a coloring book explaining the situation to kids. You can download and print ‘Prepare with Pedro’ for free online.
Always maintain, at a minimum, half a tank of gas in your vehicle in case you need to leave quickly without refueling. In addition to getting far enough out of a danger zone to safely refuel, this will also allow you to continue running your car if you find yourself stuck on the side of the road. If you find yourself trapped in snow, be sure to clean snow out of the exhaust pipe before running the car.
Consider purchasing a portable generator in the event of a power outage. Think about the essentials you need, and stay aware of your energy consumption at all times.
DO NOT plug a generator into your home’s wiring, as that can send ‘back feed’ onto neighbors and utility workers.
If a portable generator is running and power is restored, the power company can’t get to the circuits until the generator and manual transfer switch are turned off. Be sure to start your backup generator every month or so to ensure it still works.
For farmsteads, local Rural Electric Cooperatives also have options that can be discussed.
#28: Grain Bin Safety:
Grain bin safety is somewhat niche, but it’s important to know, especially in a ranching state like North Dakota. Remember to keep grain bins away from power lines, following the National Electrical Safety Code as you do. The code features rules on the proximity of distribution equipment to electricity to help decrease the chance of the two coming in contact. Be sure to contact your local electrical company before building or remodeling a grain bin.
#29: Back Up Data:
In case you aren’t able to save your computer from an emergency, making a backup of all data is strongly advised. Schedule backups frequently to avoid losing memories, photos, files, and important data.
#30: Stay Informed!:
Watch news networks (especially KX News) for updated weather reports, road closures, and emergency situations, as well as the web pages of your local emergency management division.
For more information on disaster preparedness, visit ready.gov.