09 September 2011

Prep30: Know how to escape your home or shelter within it (and when to do either)

A big part of being prepared is thinking ahead. We need to use our "apocalypse eyes" to see the likely threats or possible emergencies, and then prepare for them accordingly.

One area where this idea's important is knowing how to react when you're in your home (or any building) when disaster strikes. In some cases, you need to evacuate immediately; for others, sheltering in-place is the correct choice. In both cases, it's important to think about these events ahead of time, so that your home is your castle, not your tomb:

  1. Fire: Know the escape routes from every room, and make sure that they're unobstructed. Fire can spread quickly, so it's important to have an adequate number of smoke detectors, and be sure they're functional. For a thorough description of fire escape planning, visit the Home Safety Council's page on home fire safety.

  2. Tornado: If you live in a tornado-prone area, have an NOAA weather radio. You can find out about tornadoes from the radio, television, and/or Internet, assuming you're listening/watching. A weather radio that receives NOAA transmissions will alert you of potential tornado watches and warnings day or night. When there's a warning, take shelter immediately. Where and how you shelter depends on the kind of building you're in. Check out these What to Do During a Tornado shelter instructions to figure out a plan for your family.

  3. Earthquake: These are difficult because you get no advance warning. It's important that you seek appropriate shelter immediately, rather than try to escape the building. According to FEMA, most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave. Read their page on What to Do During an Earthquake to find appropriate shelter locations.

  4. Hurricane: There's typically advance notice of a hurricane's approach, so you can evacuate if necessary. If you can't (or don't), then you need to know what to do during a hurricane to ride out the storm.

  5. Flood: While not always related, a hurricane often leads to flooding. Flooding can occur from other reasons too, and some of them can happen rather suddenly. During a flood, you typically want to get to the highest part of the building. That said, you need to have an escape route. For instance, if you're in an attic with no exits and the water continues to rise, which is bad, of course.

  6. Don't forget your pets in your escape or sheltering plans. Know your pet's typical hideouts so that you can quickly find them. Also put signs in your windows to let firefighters know that there are pets in your home in the event of a fire.

  7. When you've finished your exit routes and sheltering plans, be sure to discuss them with your family. Plans are no good if people aren't aware of them!

  8. After discussing the plans with your family, practice and drill with them. That way, everyone's familiar with what to do and their actions will become second nature.

  9. When you're done planning for escaping or sheltering in your home, don't forget other areas where you spend more time, specifically work and school. Those places may well have plans in place, but make sure you're thoroughly familiar with them. Some places are lax in the attention they give to preparedness and drills, so you may have to practice your self-reliance and figure out what to do for yourself.

  10. In addition, consider what you'd do in a sudden emergency whenever you're in a store or visiting friends. Briefly consider where you would go. Just like on a plane, locate your exits and escape routes when you get there, then go about your business.

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