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Getting ready for an emergency is something everybody should do. We aren’t talking about extreme preppers who build bunkers and store food for the next 20 years, but something small that can help you stay safe during several days if any unexpected event happens. Although emergencies are quite rare, it is not good to be caught off guard, especially if you are sleeping. That is why it can’t hurt to be ready.
Natural disasters like hurricanes are frequent on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, while earthquakes are more common on the West Coast. Snow blizzards are most likely to happen in northern states, while fires and floods can happen anywhere.
The essential part is to educate yourself about emergencies that can happen in the area where you live. That way, you know what to prepare for exactly. Since you spend so much time resting in your bedroom, it is a place where you’ll most likely be when the emergency strikes. Read on to learn how to make your home safer, how to prepare, and what to do in case anything unexpected happens. Remember that preparation is vital to staying safe during any crisis.
General Tips for Emergency Preparedness
Here are some things that can be useful during an emergency, before we dive in into specific types later:
- Prepare an emergency kit
There is an increasing trend of natural disasters around the globe due to climate change. Weather extremes appear to be more frequent in recent years, and it is only going to get worse if we don’t take any steps to stop the pollution and try to lessen the consequences of our actions. Natural disasters cost the US $91 billion in 2018, and as much as 80% of Americans live in an area that has recently been struck by a weather-related incident. However, only one in three people have a prepared emergency kit for those situations. It seems only logical that you should be ready in case anything happens, so here are some essentials you can include in your disaster bag, and keep it nearby just in case:
- Flashlights and lanterns
- A map of your area
- Portable phone batteries (desirably solar powered)
- First aid supplies
- Canned food and enough water to last for at least five days
- Swiss army knife
- Emergency whistle
- Moist wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Extra cash
- Baby supplies if you have an infant
- Extra pair of glasses if someone is visually impaired since they can easily break in the state of panic
- Emergency contact information
- Backup of all essential financial information like home ownership, insurance, and list of all valuable items in your household. You can also include photocopies of birth certificates, passports, social security cards, and any other important documents. You can also include cherished family photographs, or you can store all this stuff on a hard drive and include it in your kit to take up less space.
Keep all these things in a container that has handles, and that’s easy for you to carry on your own. It is best to look for something waterproof and fireproof so that your things can be safe no matter what. Put the container in an easily accessible place somewhere in your bedroom.
You should look through your emergency kit every year to see if all the things are in a working condition, and that your supplies haven’t expired. Replace anything that isn’t working or the food that’s gone bad. You can also do a practice run to see how efficient your kit is, and if you have everything you need. You can simulate power outage by turning off all lights, and see how everything performs, and if there is anything else you can include.
2. Sign up for emergency notifications
Knowing when the emergency is about to happen is essential to staying safe during it. You can download apps like FEMA or Red Cross Emergency App that are available both for Android and iOS, and turn on the alerts on your smartphone. They can tell you when there is a dangerous event approaching, and also give you some tips on how to be prepared for it.
You can always listen to the weather forecast on radio stations or TV to see if there are any pending emergencies in your area. Also make sure to educate yourself about the events that have happened there in the past, and what to do during them. Read your local Red Cross informational pamphlets, and find out where the nearest emergency center is.
3. Keep emergency information nearby
If you are discovered unconscious, you want to be identified by medical staff and first responders, and you want them to have the right information essential to further recovery steps.
You can take a piece of paper, add title “In Case of Emergency,” keep it nearby, and include the following:
- Names of all household members, including pictures if possible
- Names, relationships, and phone numbers of chosen emergency contacts
- Information about medical conditions, medications, and allergies
If you always have your wallet nearby, you can keep this paper in it.
4. Store additional necessities in your bedroom
Your emergency kit and ICE list will be essential during an unexpected event, but there are some more things you can keep nearby to help you out. For instance, you always want to have a flashlight on your nightstand to guide your way to your kit if the power goes out.
One more important thing to have nearby are sneakers. Make sure you have an extra pair under your bed or nightstand so that you can quickly put them on when the event breaks out. Do not put them somewhere where they’ll pose a tripping hazard, as people tend to panic in these types of situations, and tripping over can drastically slow you down. You can also keep extra blankets in your bedroom, which can be useful in protecting you during an emergency, by putting these soft layers on top to prevent any potential injury. You can always use them as additional cover during winter months, or when the power and heating run out. If there are high wind conditions, you can put them on your windows for extra protection.
5. Charge your phone
Even though we usually suggest removing all the electronics from your bedroom, as they can distract you and interrupt your sleep, you might want to consider charging your phone somewhere in your bedroom. Screens emit blue light that can trick your brain into thinking that it is daytime, which makes it harder to fall asleep. But if you plug in your phone, put it on silent, and cover up the charging light, you should be okay.
That way, you will have a fully charged phone if a disaster strikes, and that can be essential. As much as 40% of people reported that having a working cellphone during an emergency significantly helped them overcome the situation. With extra portable phone batteries in your emergency kit, you should have enough days of battery life until everything resolves.
6. Make an escape route
Plan at least two escape routes from any room using doors and windows, as you never know what the situation will be like. If you live in a building, know where all the exit staircases are located, and never use an elevator during an emergency.
You can practice an escape route with your household members by having a test once a year. You should set up an outdoor safe spot when everybody meets in case of any catastrophic event. During the drill, always remember to grab your emergency kit, as it is vital for the oncoming period. Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full at all times so that you can drive away quickly if needed.
Hurricanes are a type of massive storm that starts over a body of water and then move toward land. They are accompanied by many conditions such as strong winds, heavy rain, tornadoes, and flooding. In the US, the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are at highest risk of experiencing hurricanes. They usually appear between May and the end of November, and here are some things you can do to prepare and stay safe during these events:
- Prepare your home before the hurricane season arrives. Pre-drill the holes around your windows so that you can quickly install plywood boards when the time comes. Secure your roof, check and clean all the rain gutters to make sure there isn’t any blockage. Regularly trim the trees around your house and remove any old branches that can fall through your windows and cause damages or injuries. You can also consider investing in flood insurance.
- Use a hurricane watch to get ready. When this alert is active, it means that severe weather conditions are likely to occur in the next 48 hours. This time is crucial to prepare. Keep your emergency kit nearby, go over the evacuation routes with your household members, and keep your gas tank full in case you need to evacuate. Secure your doors and windows, and try to stay away from them, preferably somewhere towards the central structure of your home. You can also consider moving your valuables upstairs in case of floods. Stay in your secured home until officials order evacuation, or until the danger passes.
- If there is an active hurricane warning, it means that the hurricane-like conditions are likely to happen in the next 36 hours. Put in any outside furniture that can fly and damage your windows. Seal everything and stay at the designed safe place, away from the doors and windows. Also, follow the news and be ready to evacuate if the officials give out the order.
Tornadoes are rapidly spinning columns of air that are connected both with the ground and clouds in the atmosphere. They are very violent and often destroy everything in their way. Although they can happen at any place at any time, they are most common in the Midwest and the Southeast. Powerful thunderstorms accompany tornadoes, as well as extreme wind conditions. They create clouds of flying objects and debris that wreck everything on their path. Here are some things you can do to prepare for these conditions:
- Secure your home to prevent the tornado damage. Regularly trim all trees in your yard, and make sure to remove any dead branches. Also, take inside any outside furniture and trash cans that could potentially fly through your windows. Consider installing impact-resistant windows or permanent covers for additional safety.
- Turn on emergency alerts, and make sure to watch the news and look out for sirens indicating a tornado warning. If there is an active tornado warning, immediately get to a safe place and wait for the officials to give out other safety instructions.
- Design your safe space. If your bedroom is located upstairs, go in a room downstairs, preferably a basement or a storm cellar. If you don’t have these in your home, go to the smallest room as far away from windows as possible. If you live in an apartment, go to the lowest floor, or a hallway somewhere in the center of the building. Make sure to stay close to the ground and cover head and neck with your arms, and also keep as many blankets and cushions nearby to buffer yourself from any potential injuries.
Although earthquakes can happen anywhere at any time, they are most frequent in Alaska, California, and Mississippi Valley. Depending on the intensity, they can cause your household items to fall, and brake, damage roads, or even make buildings collapse. Earthquakes can be followed by floods, fires, tsunamis, landslides, and avalanches. Here are some tips to prepare for these natural disasters:
- Remove all items that are hanging on the walls and ceiling since they can fall and hurt you. Strap big pieces of furniture and remember to store all heavy objects on the lower shelves and closer to the ground.
- Repair any cracks in the home foundation, walls, and ceiling you observe. Get a safety film and apply it to your windows in case they shatter. Check if your insurance covers damages from earthquakes, and consider renewing it if it doesn’t. You can also think about flood insurance if you live near water.
- Design a safe spot in your home. Usually, if it happens during the night, you are best off staying in bed and covering your head and neck with pillows and blankets. If there is something above you, like a bedroom fan, it is best to drop to the floor and cover your neck and head with your arms. Crawl to a safe space where nothing can fall on you, preferably near an inside wall, away from doors and windows.
Floods commonly appear after all mentioned natural disasters, but they can also be a result of heavy rainfalls. They can happen anywhere but are more common in areas near water and with long rain periods. Here is what you can do to prepare:
- If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, get the insurance that covers damages caused by these catastrophic events.
- Check for any cracks in your walls or home foundation, as this is where water gets in. Repair them as soon as you see them. Also, be ready to protect your home when floods strike. Buy sandbags, shovels, plastic garbage bags, and waterproof sheets to protect any areas of your bedroom and home susceptible to flooding. Relocate your valuables to upper levels to prevent them from getting damaged.
- Watch the news, set notifications, and immediately react if you see an active flood warning.
Wildfires are most common in areas with dry, hot climates, such as in the Western US, especially California. It appears that human actions cause 90% of these catastrophic events, and they spread so fast that you have very little time to react. Fires can also start in your home, and bedroom is the most common place for that according to National Fire Protection Association. Here are some things you can do to prevent that from happening:
- Make a fire escape plan with multiple exits, and make sure your family members have it. You can schedule a drill to make sure that everyone is prepared in case of an emergency. Many people don’t realize how much smoke there is when a fire breaks out, so maybe put a bandana over your head, or close your eyes to see if you can still found an exit.
- Maintain your smoke alarms and make sure that each one works correctly. Keep one in every room, test and clean them once every couple of months, and change batteries yearly.
- Remove any fire hazard. Don’t leave space heaters unattended, don’t smoke in your bedroom, and don’t light any candles. Regularly check the cables of electronics in your bedroom, and avoid placing wires under a rug.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby so that you can quickly react and prevent a fire from developing right away.
12. Winter Storms
Blizzards are more common in northern areas, and they can be very dangerous. They usually last for hours or days during which there are extreme winter conditions such as strong winds and unstable snow conditions. Here are some essential tips to keep your bedroom safe during winter storms:
- Seal and cover your windows to prevent them from breaking and keep the cold air outside.
- Blizzards often go hand in hand with power outages, so have extra coats and bedding in your bedroom to help you stay warm. Consider investing in clothes that trap body heat to keep you warm for longer. Also, make sure you eat right, as your body needs fuel to keep the temperature up. You can also keep an extra electric space heater in case the power doesn’t go out, as it can be beneficial during these cold periods.
- Keep an eye on official alerts and warnings, and act accordingly.
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Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.