Here in Australia, summer is the time for floods, bush fires, severe storms and cyclones. I'm sure everyone remembers the devastating floods we had last year in Queensland and Victoria. Recently we received a free booklet from our state government (Queensland) about preparing for disasters. It's called "Get Ready" and it's given us a lot to think about. It contains four steps of preparation that can be carried out well before, and leading into, an emergency situation:
- Prepare your emergency plan
- Prepare your emergency kit
- Prepare your home
- Tune into warnings
It also gives safety tips on how to survive severe storms, tsunamis, floods and cyclones. There is a pdf file of the brochure here.
When we were younger, we probably wouldn't have taken much notice of these types of booklets but now that we can't move as fast as we used to, we read them, store the information away in our brains, and keep the booklet handy. But for younger folk, I guess the recent floods and cyclones and seeing the overseas hurricanes and tsunamis has taught us to never be complacent. There is a role for disaster preparation in every home.
We are lucky here. If there was an emergency that affected food distribution, electricity or water, we'd be able to stay safe in our home for a few weeks. There is enough food and water here to keep us going and although we'd have to build a fire outside to cook, that's easily done and it wouldn't phase us. We would make a quick trip to the shop to pick up fresh batteries for the radio but everything else is taken care of. We keep our mobile phone charged and have a battery charger for the phone in the car so if we needed to, we'd run the car for a while to charge the phone. We have spare fuel here.
However, if there was a bush fire, flood or cyclone close to us we would leave and drive to a predetermined safer location. In that case we'd need a grab bag - a bag containing those things we wouldn't want to leave behind to potentially be destroyed, as well as all the things we'd have to take to survive some time away. Generally a grab bag would be packed at the beginning of each storm/bushfire season, or left partially packed and added to when needed, and would contain:
- Important documents in a waterproof container
- Address book or phone containing addresses, phone charger and spare battery
- Treasured photos in a waterproof container
- Laptop computer, a flash drive or portable hard drive containing the files you don't want to lose
- Medication and tissues
- First aid kit
- Torch - one for each person, and spare batteries
- Candles, matches or a lighter
- Can opener and cutlery
- Battery-operated radio with spare batteries
- Cash (if there is no electricity the ATMs won't operate) credit and debit cards, just in case.
In a separate box:
- Enough food and water for 48 hours. Make sure the food doesn't have to be cooked or refrigerated - sandwiches, cans of beans, fruit, popcorn, chocolate, biscuits, processed cheese, muesli bars etc.
- If you have babies, the elderly or people with special needs with you, you'll need whatever special food and drinks they require.
- Nappies, wipes, baby bottles, sippy cups for the babies. A bucket with lid for waste items.
- Eye glasses, walking sticks, asthma puffers and any special needs for your family.
- Clothing and shoes for everyone.
- Books, games and toys for the children. Books and cards for the adults.
- Depending on the weather, either sun hats or blankets.
- Sleeping gear.
- If you have to evacuate for any reason, do it early.
- Always go directly to the place you specified in your family emergency plan.
- If you have to evacuate when flood waters are rising, if there is time, firmly plug up all your sink drains to stop water backing up into the house.
- If you evacuate due to a bush fire and there is time, close all interior doors as well as the outside doors. Remove the mats from the front and back doors. Cinders may land on them and ignite them creating a fire source at your wooden doors.
Well before anything happens, the whole family should talk about what would happen in an emergency and practise your evacuation plan. If you have teenagers, add the phone number of a trusted friend or relative that they can phone if they're out and can't contact you. Add the same emergency phone number to all phones in the family and ask that person to be your contact point in an emergency. Decide what you'll do with pets, if you want to take them with you, you'll need leads or pet boxes.
In Australia, the State Emergency Service will respond to all large emergencies. Each state has it's own branches and you can find their websites by Googling SES in your state. The SES have a lot of valuable information on their sites so it's worthwhile having a look. This is the Queensland SES site.
I think we often think that disasters only happen to other people but the floods last year proved that anything can happen. Do you have an emergency plan in your home? Do you have any information that I've forgotten, if so, please add your comment.