Health & Safety

April 5, 2013

Preparing to survive: Family matters

Robert J. Kaschak
452 Emergency Management technician

Family preparation is paramount for survival during any type of major disaster. In addition to personal issues, other items require attention in the household. One of the serious outcomes of a major earthquake is flying debris. Therefore, it makes good sense to secure items in the home that may become potential hazards during such an event. Relatively inexpensive and easy-to-do precautions can be accomplished to make a huge difference.

Installing locking latches on cupboards will prevent dishes and glassware from falling on the floor and breaking. Earthquake “putty” will secure items such as precious heirlooms, mantle pieces, clocks and pictures from falling and being destroyed.

Anchor heavier furniture such as large mirrors, dressers or stereo speakers to the wall, because they could tip over on you or a family member and cause major injury. Fasten shelves securely to walls and place heavy objects on lower shelves. In addition, brace overhead light fixtures and top-heavy objects.

When considering precautions for appliances and electrical items, ensure wiring and gas connections are in good condition – faulty wiring or weak gas connectors can lead to fire. Major appliances such as the hot water heaters and furnaces, should be strapped and secured to the walls – flexible pipe fittings are suggested because they move with the motion of the quake and should reduce the chances of line breakage, which could lead to gas or water leaks. Responsible family members should know how to shut off utilities and obtain water from the water heater. Contact the appliance manufacturer for more safety and operational tips.

Safe spots, such as under a sturdy table or against an inside wall, should be designated and made aware of by each member of the household.

Lastly, hold earthquake drills with your family to reinforce which actions should be taken. Every home will have a unique situation, so families should ensure their plans are accommodating, in addition to allowing for the unexpected.

Home injuries contribute to a large amount of casualties during a major catastrophe, which is why it is crucial to have a prepatory and reaction plan in place.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency website (http://www.fema.gov/) provides great advice on home preparation if you want more details. The benefits of instituting the above tips will far outweigh the effort put in to completing them. Knowing that a plan is in place and that you have taken protective measures will not only give you an internal satisfaction, but could be crucial for the survival of your loved ones.

Remember, not if it happens, but when!




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