One of the most important responsibilities of local government is to protect its citizens in the event of any kind of disaster – either a natural one or one caused by political strife. Bloomfield Township has always taken this mandate very seriously and has had emergency plans in place for decades. Now, with increased and changing threats to our security, the Board of Trustees has directed all departments to renew their efforts, review all plans and revise them where necessary in order to be prepared for emergency situations of any kind.
While terrorism and other man-made disasters are a concern, we cannot forget that a natural catastrophe is far more likely to affect us locally. By preparing for these, our ability to cope with other emergencies will be greatly improved. The same supplies we would store before a major snowstorm, for example, could also be used should a man-made disaster occur.
List of guidelines to help you prepare your home for an emergency
Township’s Family Preparedness Workbook
Disaster Preparedness at Home
This is not an exhaustive list of the supplies you will need during an emergency, just a few ideas to get you started and get you thinking.
- Keep enough food in your home to keep your family fed for at least 4 days. Canned and dry goods (rice, spaghetti, dried beans, etc.) are the best kind to have, as they are not dependent upon refrigeration and have long shelf lives.
- Have battery-powered radios and lights. Keep a supply of fresh batteries on hand. Consider purchasing rechargeable flashlights that can be left connected to their charger until needed.
- Develop a Family Communications Plan. Have alternate ways of contacting family members should electricity, cellular phone, and landline telephone services become inoperative. Designate a meeting point for your family members well outside of your neighborhood. This is where your family will regroup if travel back to your home is impossible or very difficult. Designate an out-of-state relative to be a contact point; if your family members get separated and are unable to contact you directly, they will call this relative to relay to you where they are.
- Keep your car(s) in good repair and keep their gas tanks as full as possible. Remember, one blackout can close dozens or hundreds of gas stations, leaving you stranded.
- Have at least a couple of ‘regular’ (non cordless) telephones in your home. If your home suffers from a power failure, cordless phones will no longer work.
- Keep a battery powered weather radio in your home. Local emergency management will be able to broadcast area specific information that may be crucial to you and your family. These radios are inexpensive and can be purchased for as little as $20. Contact your local electronics retailer for details.
- Have a supply of hand tools available. Hammers, saws, pry bars, brooms, shovels, etc., may all prove critical to early disaster mitigation in your home.
- Don’t forget to keep an emergency supply of toiletries and hygiene products in your home. Hygiene and appropriate sanitation are critical during and after a disaster to prevent disease. As common as water main breaks are, even under ‘normal’ conditions, you will need a household contingency plan to provide for septic waste in an emergency. One solution might be to store several gallons of water in your home to be used only for operating the toilets and washing.
- Potable (drinkable) water should also be stored in your home. There should be at least 2-3 gallons of water available per day during the emergency for each member of your household. Purchasing and storing bottled water is an option. Another option would be to thoroughly clean empty plastic milk jug containers and their lids with hot, soapy water. After cleaning and rinsing, fill them with water that you have boiled and allowed to cool to room temperature. Now, store these jugs of water in a cool place away from sunlight. Sometimes after long storage, water can taste stale or flat. Boiling this water for several minutes, then allowing it to cool to room temperature greatly improves the flavor of stored water. Also consider purchasing and storing several bottles of hydrating sports drinks.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your home. While you should have a first aid kit for everyday use, there should be one that is reserved solely for use during a local emergency/disaster. Check with your local American Red Cross chapter on how you should stock this emergency kit. Also, take a course in first aid and CPR.
- Don’t forget your pets! Remember, their needs will not cease during a disaster. They will still need their food and water.
- If you have prescription drugs, don’t wait until you have taken the last of your medications to get them refilled. A local interruption of electrical power can easily last several days, as we have seen, and pharmacies may well be closed until power is restored. By refilling your prescriptions at least a few days before your current supply is exhausted, the chances of running out of them during an unforeseen event are reduced.
- NEVER use a barbeque or similar open flame cooking appliance indoors! Besides the obvious fire hazard, cooking in this manner generates deadly carbon monoxide. Use these devices where they are intended to be used - OUTSIDE!
- Don’t forget family members with special needs. They will require uninterrupted support even during emergencies or disasters.
- Remain calm. Your children will look to you for leadership and assurance. Explain to your children what is happening in a way that they can understand. Tell them that people are working to fix the problem.