The likelihood of surviving a house fire depends just as much on having working smoke detectors and an exit plan as it does on having a well-trained local fire department. The same is true for surviving a tornado, flood, or other disaster. Individual personal preparedness is just as important as the preparedness of local emergency response professionals. Individuals must have the tools and plans in place to make it on their own, at least for a period of time, when disaster strikes. Just like having a working smoke detector, preparing for the unexpected makes sense!
The basic steps to disaster preparedness are to get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.
Get a Kit
Be prepared to improvise and use the emergency supplies you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer. Consider having multiple types of emergency supply kits for a variety of locations and situations. At home, your kit may including having extra food & water in the pantry, a whistle to signal for help and flashlights in your severe weather shelter location, and a “go-bag” with important items you can grab if you must evacuate your home quickly. In your vehicle, you may have a smaller kit with special items like jumper cables, tools, and extra warm clothing for winter.
Supplies should be tailored your specific daily living needs and responsibilities, taking into consideration the special needs of children, those with special medical needs, and pets.
Click here for a full list of recommended emergency supplies for your home, vehicle, and “go-bag.”
Make a Plan
Plan in advance what you will do and how you will communicate in a disaster. You may be separated from family and friends when disaster strikes so it’s important to know:
- How you will receive alerts and warnings
- Where you will seek shelter or meet if you get separated
- What routes you will use to evacuate
- How you will communicate with one another
There are a number of ways to receive alerts and warnings of impending disasters. It is best to have a variety of sources in the event that one or more of these sources are unavailable. A few sources include:
Plan on where you and your family will seek shelter during tornadoes and severe weather as well as where you will meet if you are separated from family members during a disaster. Consider places you frequent, such as work, school, or daycare in these plans, in addition to your home. You should identify the following shelter and meeting locations:
- Identify a tornado and severe weather shelter in the lowest level of the structure in a small interior room without windows.
- Identify a meeting location outside your home, such as a mailbox, in the event you must evacuate for a fire.
- Identify a meeting location outside your neighborhood, such as convenience store or family member’s home, in the event you must evacuate your neighborhood and are unable to communicate with family members who may be separated from each other.
- Identify a meeting location outside your city, such as a family member’s home in a nearby town, in the event you must evacuate your entire city and are unable to communicate with family members who may be separated from each other.
Plan on where and how you will evacuate if asked to do so by local emergency response officials. In some circumstances, you will be asked to evacuate to a designated reception center where you can meet with family and find shelter or medical care. If no reception center is designated, you should evacuate to the meeting location outside your neighborhood or city that was designated in your plan. Always ensure you have at least a half-tank of gas in your vehicle in case you must evacuate. If you do not have a vehicle, make a list of public transportation options or talk with a neighbor who may be able to provide you transportation in an evacuation. Also consider what items you should have in a “go bag” that you can take with you.
Click here for more information about recommended items for a “go-bag.”
Plan on how you and your family will Shelter-in-Place if necessary. There are circumstances when the air outside is contaminated with chemicals, smoke, or other contaminants making it dangerous to evacuate the area. In these circumstances, local emergency response officials may advise that you immediately go indoors to shelter-in-place by sealing windows, sealing doors, turning off heating & cooling systems, turning off dryers, turning off ventilation systems, and closing fireplace dampers that may bring in air from the outside. Additional protection can also be achieved by moving your emergency supply kit into a single room and duct taping plastic sheeting over the windows, doors, and vents in that room. Sheltering-in-place is a temporary measure to create a barrier between you and contaminated air outside. Watch television, listen to local AM/FM radio, and check social media for updates from local emergency response officials on when it is safe to leave your shelter-in-place location.
Click here for more information on how to shelter-in-place.
Plan on how you will communicate with family and friends if you are separated when disaster strikes. Consider appointing a family member or friends that lives in another city less like to be impacted by the same disaster to be an emergency point of contact. All separated family members can call, text, or message this point of contact to let them know their status and location. Also consider using alternate methods of communications, such as text messages or messaging apps that may work when phone lines are congested. Walkie-talkies used for hunting or camping can also be useful for communicating over short distances of a few miles or less during disasters when phone or internet are not working.
Being informed about the various types of threats in the community help you make better decision and react more appropriately in an emergency. The following information sheets will help you learn about various threats that may impact Manitowoc County:
Consider getting trained in first aid and CPR to ensure you can provide aid to family and friends in an emergency. You can take a course through the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
Also consider learning how to safely disconnect utilities, such as electric, gas, and water, if your home is damaged during a disaster. Disconnecting utilities can prevent fires or further damage. A qualified electrician, plumber, or heating contractor can advise on how to safely disconnect utilities in your home.