AccidentWe often hear in the news about communities and neighborhoods who are told to quickly evacuate because of a toxic chemical spill or other biological hazard that has happened nearby.  Highways and railroads are the means of carrying many toxic and hazardous substances that are necessary for the operation of our society.  Most cities have chemical storage areas that are used for water treatment and manufacturing.  After September 11, 2001, we have come to realize the threat of terrorists using chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapons.  What if there is no time to evacuate a large population?  It is extremely difficult to quickly evacuate large population areas because there are too many people and too few exists.  Evacuation is preferable when there is time, but if it isn’t an option, families can do what is called “sheltering in place” with some simple preparation.  This means that a family sets up a shelter in their own home.  In the event of an airborne biological or chemical hazard, you can seal your family indoors until the hazard blows through, usually in a matter of hours.  When you become aware of an emergency, turn on your emergency radio to know what to do for the particular situation.  Be sure you are listening to the official emergency station for your area.

Prepare in Advance

Select a shelter in place room.

An upstairs, interior room is preferable since many chemical hazards are heavier than air and travel along the ground.  Choose a single room large enough to hold air for all members of your family.  Include pets as well.  A full-size dog uses twice as much air as an adult and cats use half the air.  To determine air needs and occupancy, have everyone in the room stand with outstretched arms.  If they can do this without touching anyone else’s outstretched arms there is enough air for one hour.  An 8 foot by 6 foot typical bathroom holds enough air for 2 adults and a child under 6 years of age for one hour.

Gather a shelter in place kit.

  • 2 mil or Thicker Clear Plastic Sheeting – 250 sq. ft. (1 roll) or enough for the room you chose.  Pre-cut and label the plastic sheeting to cover doors, windows, vents, and light fixtures to save time.
  • 2 Rolls Duct Tape – Use medium grade or better to tape plastic sheeting in place and to cover all electrical outlets, fixtures, and other areas where air can seep in.
  • Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach (Standard Household Bleach) – Use bleach without any added scents or colors to wash anything that might have become contaminated by a biological agent.  Rotate often as standard bleach has a one year shelf life.
  • Battery Operated Emergency Radio or TV – Check  for official news as to when it’s safe to come out.
  • Personal Medications – Any medical items that are essential to survive for a few hours.
  • Flashlight or Battery Operated Lantern – It is possible you could lose power and light.  DO NOT use candles or open flames as they burn valuable oxygen.
  • Porta-Potty – Don’t flush the regular toilet as it displaces valuable air.
  • Coats, Blankets, Sleeping Bags, Etc.  – Items for staying warm without using a heating device that burns oxygen.
  • Air Filtering Masks.
  • Towels – Get damp and use to jam under door cracks.
  • Books, Games, or Other Diversions.
  • Cordless Telephone or Mobile Phone.
  • Food and Water.
  • Small step stool or ladder to reach ceiling fan, vents, or fixtures.

Have your kit prepared in advance.  You may not have time to prepare it during the emergency.

When the Emergency Happens
  1. Turn on the emergency radio or TV for official information.
  2. Turn off all mechanical or electrically operated air intakes or air exchanges to your home; the furnace, air conditioner, chimney flue dampers, and any fans.  There is a switch on or next to the furnace that you can flip to actually turn off your furnace.  Some thermostats have an actual “off” position for the furnace or A/C, but just turning down the thermostat isn’t enough — you have to TURN THE FURNACE OFF!  Do not take the time to get on your roof to cover vents and/or chimney openings.
  3. Close, lock, and secure your home (windows, doors, animal entries, etc.). Close windows, blinds, and drapes.
  4. Gather your family, pets, and emergency supplies into the selected shelter in place room.  Using the pre-cut and labeled plastic sheeting and duct tape, make the room as air-tight as possible.  While gathering your family, you can provide a minimal amount of protection to your breathing by covering your mouth and nose with a damp (not soaking wet) cloth or using an air filtering mask.
  5. Wet towels and jam them in the crack under each door in that room.
  6. Use pre-cut plastic sheeting and duct tape to cover windows, heat vents, light switches, power sockets, fireplaces, baseboard gaps (if the baseboards aren’t caulked), light fixtures, entire door frames, attic doors that might be in the room, and where pipes come in through the wall.  The precut plastic sheeting needs to fit entirely over the window and door frame so you are actually taping the plastic onto the interior wall and not the casing.
  7. Limit activity and air usage.
  8. DO NOT use water from the taps or flush toilets as this could displace valuable air.
  9. DO NOT use lanterns or candles which burn oxygen. If your power is still on, it is fine to use the electric lights.
  10. Use a 5% solution of bleach to wash down anything or anyone you think might have been contaminated by a biological agent.
  11. Stay inside the sealed shelter until you are told OFFICIALLY it is safe to leave.
  12. When you are OFFICIALLY told it is safe to come out, have one person use an air filtering mask or put a wet cloth over their mouth and nose and go open up all doors and windows, and turn on air exchangers and fans to air out the home.  Realize you may still need to stay indoors, quarantined, for a longer period of time.

Prepare beforehand and practice shelter in place procedures with your family.  You may not have time in the event of a real emergency to learn by trial and error.


Heat WaveHEADLINE!  Heat Wave Knocks Out All City Utilities!  So…whaddya DO?

Just as in all preparedness plans, it is important to make your preparations before the emergency happens.  Make your home ready for hot weather emergencies by applying the concepts spoken of in previous posts about Emergency Sheltering.

Before the emergency, install an adequate number of attic vents to allow accumulated heat to be dispelled from your home.  Additionally, have energy rated and UV protective windows installed.  These measures will lower your utilities bills and help your home be cooler when the power is out.

During the heat wave emergency, look for & create cool rooms.  Choose rooms of the house as designated cool rooms where everyone will spend most of their time.  This saves on any limited resources you may have during the emergency situation.

  • Select rooms on the lowest level of the house.  Since heat rises, these will be the coolest rooms.  Following this principle, sleep with your mattress directly on the floor to be cooler by a few more degrees than you would be otherwise a few feet higher on the bed frame.
  • Select rooms with only north facing windows.  This will block the heat and light from the southern sun during the day and still allow for outside cool air at night.  Cover all windows, especially south and west-facing, with aluminum foil or Mylar blankets. Apply foil or Mylar directly to the windows, eliminating as much air between them as possible.  This not only blocks the light and heat of the sun, but reflects it away, preventing the heating up of inside air.  Keep all doors and windows closed during the day to keep out hot air, and then open upper level windows at night to let accumulated heat escape.
  • In dry climates, in addition to foil or Mylar, promote evaporation by hanging wet blankets or sheets in front of windows and doors.  As the moisture evaporates from the blankets, it creates a cooling effect.  Hospitals often do this during heat waves to keep their bed-ridden patients cool.  In extreme heat, sleeping in wet sheets and clothing can also help keep you cool.  Unfortunately, this does not work well in areas of high humidity where the surrounding air is already saturated with moisture, hampering evaporation.  Use caution when exerting yourself in these high humidity areas since sweating does not work very well either.  Be sure to limit your activities during the hottest part of the day.
  • Staying hydrated is important to help your body maintain its own cooling system.  Have plenty of stored water on hand to maintain your level of hydration.  If you have to cook to prepare your meals, which is a distinct possibility if the power is out and the freezer starts to defrost, cook outdoors to keep the heat out of the house.  Solar ovens are a great way to conserve fuel and use to power of the sun to your advantage.

Cold SnapHEADLINE!  Cold Snap Freezes All City Utilities!  So…whaddya DO?

Just as in all preparedness plans, it is important to make your preparations before the emergency happens.  Make your home ready for cold weather emergencies by applying the concepts spoken of in previous posts about Emergency Sheltering.

Look for & create a warm room.  Choose one room of the house as the designated warm room where everyone will spend most of their time.  This saves on any limited heating resources you may have during the emergency situation.

  • Select a room on the highest level of the house with a low ceiling.  Since heat rises, these will be the warmest rooms.  The low ceiling will hold the heat closer to where you need it to stay warm.
  • Select a room with south-facing windows.  This will allow the direct sunlight to help provide heat during the day to your room.  Keep all house windows clear & clean during the day to allow as much solar radiation in as possible.  Think about turning your home into a make-shift solar oven.
  • Insulate your windows with clear plastic sheeting.  This allows sunlight in during the day, but creates an insulative layer of trapped air to hold in heat.  The distance between the plastic sheeting and the window should be about one inch.  Be sure no air can escape from between the plastic and the window.  Use duct tape the seal off any drafts.  At night use curtains, blankets or other insulative materials draped over windows to help hold in the heat.
  •  Isolate and insulate your warm room from the rest of the house.  Again you only want to warm as few areas as possible to conserve your heating supplies.  Cover doors, under doors and other openings with blankets or towels.  Don’t forget to leave some ventilation to allow oxygen into the room for breathing, especially if using heaters, candles, or other indoor safe supplies that consume oxygen.
  • Make a “nest” or a room within your warm room.  Use small tents, blankets, couch cushions, etc. to isolate and insulate your nest and make it even warmer than the larger warm room.  Couch cushions just like the fort you made as a kid are excellent for insulation.
  • Get cozy with the family.  Radiation from body heat can be used to keep each other warm and warm the inside of the nest.  Get Mom, Dad, the kids, Grandma, and Grandpa all together in the same nest.  Sleep together inside the same tent, even in the same bed or sleeping bag if possible.
  • Eat high calorie foods and stay hydrated to generate heat from your metabolism, the process of breaking down food into energy.  When possible, eat hot, simple to prepare meals to help in maintaining your body temperature.
  • Use indoor safe heaters, fireplaces, or wood stoves.  There are many commercially available alternative fuel heaters that are safe to use indoors.  Be sure to allow a sufficient supply of oxygen to enter into your room and check the manufacture’s guidelines to know how to safely use your device.  Keep a ready supply of fuel for your heater or fireplace.

Don’t forget the dangers of Carbon Monoxide (CO).  Don’t use fuel burning camp equipment indoors.  Don’t use gas appliances like the oven, stove or dryer to heat your home.  Don’t use gas-powered tools indoors (generators, etc).  Large propane bottles are never to be indoors so have a long enough hose to allow the bottle to stay outside while the indoor safe heater is inside.  Check the manufactures directions for safe operation.


3 Cold Weather Layers

3 Cold Weather Layers

Use a 3 layer clothing system to maintain a normal body temperature in cold weather conditions.  The main goals are to retain heat and stay dry by dispensing and repelling moisture.

BASE LAYER:

The Base Layer of clothing is right next to your skin and is made from artificial fibers like polyester or nylon.  Artificial fiber clothing wicks moisture away from your body, which can otherwise freeze or evaporate, both which make you colder.

Cotton underwear and even cotton thermal underwear should not be used because cotton holds moisture next to your body which promotes heat loss through evaporation and conduction.

INSULATION LAYER:

The Insulation Layer of clothing needs to be breathable, like wool or fleece, allowing moisture to vent.  Multiple small layers insulate by trapping non-heat conducting air between them.  They also have the added benefit of being able to easily self-regulate to a comfortable temperature by adding or removing layers as necessary, rather than one bulky layer.

For shelters, wool or fleece blankets work wonderfully.  In a pinch, you can use dry leaves, crumpled paper, or anything else that will trap air layers all around you.

OUTSIDE PROTECTIVE LAYER:

The Outside Protective Layer of clothing protects against the elements such as wind, rain, snow & sun. Unless you are in an extremely wet environment, water resistant is usually better than water proof because it “breathes” better, letting moisture out.

A protective layer for your shelter, like a tarp, protects you from the ground.  A tent also will protect you from other elemental hazards in the surrounding environment.  A Mylar tent can reflect your body heat back to you in cold weather and reflect sun and heat away in hot.  Any safe structures that block wind, rain or sun can save your life.

An understanding of Cold Weather Clothing Layers and the Science of Effective Emergency Sheltering will help you to use your available resources to maintain body temperature and make effective, life saving shelters in an emergency.


The purpose of a shelter is to help your body maintain its normal temperature.  If you understand these concepts, you can use your available supplies and resources to make effective, life saving shelters for the given circumstances.

Gaining & Losing Heat

In cold temperature situations, you usually want to retain and gain heat; whereas in warm temperatures, you want to promote heat loss or at least not increase your temperature.  Remember that heat
always travels from warmer areas to colder areas.

Conduction:  Heat transfer through direct contact, such as bare feet on a cold floor.  Ice packs use conduction to pull heat away from burns or sore muscles.  Prevent conduction from your body in cold temperatures by wearing socks or when camping by making an insulation barrier between your sleeping area and the ground.

Convection:  Heat transfer through air and liquid currents.  Wind chill is a good example of convection.  When the wind blows, it feels colder than the ambient temperature because the moving air is pulling heat away from your body.  You use convection in warmer temperatures to cool down when you use a fan.  Prevent convection in colder temperatures by wearing clothing or using shelters that block wind.

Radiation:  Heat transfer through emission.  A car’s radiator radiates heat to keep the engine from overheating.  You experience radiation from the sun every day.  In the same way you feel warmth from a campfire without having to touch the flame.  You can even feel your own body radiating heat if you put your hand just above an area of skin.  Prevent radiation heat loss in cold temperatures by using insulated clothing and shelters, and by using shelters that reflect your heat back to you.

Metabolism:  Converting food into energy and heat.  Food is your body’s source of fuel.  Help your body regulate your temperature in cold weather by eating high calorie foods like energy bars, trail mix & fruit snacksWater is an important part in the metabolism process, be sure to stay properly hydrated in warm and cold situations.

Evaporation:  Heat transfer through converting liquid to gas.  When your body sweats, the sweat evaporates, or changes from a liquid into a gas, which requires heat energy.  This helps keep you cool.  When you get out of a pool, even on a hot day, you feel cold until you dry off because of evaporation.  Promote evaporation in hot temperatures by staying hydrated.  In extreme situations you can even wear wet clothing.  Prevent heat loss in the cold by staying dry, minimizing sweating, and by wearing artificial fiber clothing, which wicks moisture away next to your skin.  In humid climates, regulating temperature through evaporation is not effective.

Respiration:  Heat loss through breathing.  You breathe out warm, moist air.  You can’t stop breathing, so in cold temperature situations, wear a mask or scarf that covers your mouth & nose.  Breathe through your nose to warm & moisten the air before it gets to your lungs, and to retain as much heat and moisture when you breathe out.

You could also say friction generates heat, like when you rub your hands together, but heat generation is very small and can be damaging to skin tissues in extreme situations like frost bite.

Preventing or Promoting Heat Transfer

After learning how your body gains or losses heat, it is important to learn how to prevent or promote those heat losses and gains.

Insulation:  Trapping air to stop or slow the transfer of heat.  Air is not a good heat conductor, so it works well as a barrier.  Multiple small layers of clothing trap air for insulation and allow you to regulate to a comfortable temperature by adding or removing layers as needed.  Insulation prevents conduction and radiation.

Reflection:  Bouncing heat back to or away from.  Heat, also known as infrared light, can be deflected and directed just like a flashlight beam and a mirror.  Reflect your radiated body heat back to you in
cold or reflect solar heat away from you in hot weather by using Mylar blankets, sleeping bags, or tents.  Be sure to have an insulating layer of clothing or cloth between your skin & the Mylar, otherwise it turns from reflecting your heat back, to conducting your heat away.

Protection:  Keeping out the heat transferring elements like sun, water, wind, and physical dangers.  Maintain your body temperature by protecting yourself from the elements. Stay dry and warm by wearing an outer layer that sheds water.  Shelters that block wind and/or provide shade from the hot sun are also vital to survival in extreme temperatures.

Moisture Wicking:  Pulling water away from the body.  Artificial fiber clothing or shelters like polyester, fleece, and nylon or a non-plant fiber like wool can actually wick, or pull moisture, away from your skin.  This is essential in cold weather.  You do not want evaporation happening or ice forming next to your skin when you are cold.  DO NOT wear cotton in cold weather situations since cotton holds moisture and causes evaporation next to your skin.


Basic Food StorageHaving a food storage supply is essential for maintaining energy and health in an emergency situation.  There is no perfect food or complete nutrition pill; nutrition comes from a variety of foods.

This list is the basic food requirements for an average adult for one year.  Bold items are the total for the whole category, non-bold are possible suggestions.  Tailor your list based on these recommendations.  Consider your needs, wants, abilities, resources and budget.

“Eat what you store, and store what you eat.”

Suggested Amounts of Basic Food Storage (One Adult/One Year)
Item Per Year 3 Months Shelf Life in Years
Grains 400 lbs 100 lbs
Wheat 175 lbs 30 +
Flour 20 lbs 20
Cornmeal 30 lbs 20
Rolled Oats 50 lbs 30
White Rice 80 lbs 30 +
Pearled Barley 5 lbs 30 +
Pasta 40 lbs 20
Legumes 60 lbs 15 lbs
Dry Beans 45 lbs 30
Dry Lima Beans 2 lbs 30
Dry Soy Beans 2 lbs 30
Dry Split Peas 2 lbs 30
Dry Lentils 2 lbs 30
Dry Soup Mix 7 lbs 1 to 2
Fats & Oils 10 quarts 2.5 quarts
Cooking Oil 5 quarts 1 to 2
Shortening 2 quarts 5
Mayonnaise 1 quart 1 to 2
Salad Dressing 1 quart 1 to 2
Peanut Butter 1 quart 1 to 2
Milk Group 16 lbs 4 lbs
Non-Fat Dry Milk 14 lbs 20
Evaporated Milk 12 12-oz cans 1 to 2
Sugars 60 lbs 15 lbs
Granulated Sugar 40 lbs 30 +
Brown Sugar 3 lbs 1 to 2
Molasses 1 lbs 1 to 2
Honey 3 lbs 30
Corn Syrup 3 lbs 1 to 2
Jams & Jellies 5 lbs 1 to 2
Powdered Fruit Drink 6 lbs 30
Flavored Gelatin 1 lbs 5
Miscellaneous
Salt 8 lbs 2 lbs 30 +
Dry Yeast 1/2 lbs 2 oz 1 to 2
Baking Soda 1 lbs 1/4 lbs 30 +
Baking Powder 1 lbs 1/4 lbs 1 to 2

Include dried or canned fruits and vegetables to add vitamins and nutrients.

Sources:

Preparedness Principles, Barbara Salsbury, pg.86

http://www.providentliving.org  “New Findings for Longer-Term Food Storage”


 

  • Before
  1. Learn & Plan
  2. Prepare
  3. Practice
  • During
  1. Remain Calm
  2. Gather Information
  3. Think
  4. Act
  5. Help
  • After
  1. Help
  2. Talk About It
  3. Resume Normal Life

 

When making preparations for an emergency, we usually just think about surviving the ordeal, not recovering from the incident.  After large-scale disasters like September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina, we have seen communities and the entire nation come together and help those in need.  Emergency responders and other volunteers leave family and home to travel to the other side of the country to render assistance.  Neighborhoods, churches, and business donate time and money to put together disaster, food, and sanitation kits.  Blood donors flock to literally give the gift of life.

When thinking about post-disaster recovery, we often think about search and rescue, removing debris and cleaning, or reconstructing homes and other structures.  Many people don’t have the skills or ability to help in these actions.  So what can these other individuals do?

After an emergency on your area, after you have taken care of the needs of your family and neighbors, it is a good idea to report to CERT, Red Cross or other community action groups.  They are trained in how to organize volunteers to help. 

There are many things that can be done besides heavy lifting, cleaning and building. 

  • Volunteers can help prepare and distribute food, clothing, sanitation, and shelter supplies. 
  • Just as in any organization, there is a lot of paperwork and documentation that needs to be done.  Volunteers can help collect, organize and distribute information. 
  • If traditional communication lines are down, volunteers can act as information runners in cars, on bikes, horses, ATVs, or on foot.
  • In emergencies, children can get separated from parents.  A volunteer experienced in child care can care for these children or for the children of parents who are volunteering in other areas.
  • Sometimes one of the most important jobs a volunteer can do is to hold a hand, listen, and provide a shoulder to cry on.

If a person is willing and able to help, there is always something that he or she can do.  Be proactive and think about what you and your family can do to help others after a disaster.  Remember that when we are helping others, we forget about our own sorrows and can find comfort in serving others.