Monthly Archives: April 2016

Handle a Disaster Strikes

Lives can be turned upside down by natural disasters, from earthquakes and fires to hurricanes and tornadoes — as well as terrorist attacks and other human-caused disasters. Your best defense is emergency preparedness — having a plan and knowing the steps to take so that you and your family will be ready if disaster strikes.

Has your family put these emergency preparedness basics in place?

  • Learn evacuation routes. Contact your local officials and find out how you should get out of your area if you need to.
  • Have a family emergency plan. Sit down and talk about the emergencies that are most likely to happen in your area. Determine how your family will react in each situation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has tools to help you put together an emergency preparedness plan.
  • Assemble an emergency kit. In a tote or other easy-to-carry bag, store copies of important documents such as birth certificates, photo identification, medical cards, cash and extra checks, spare keys, a list of important phone numbers, an extra supply of prescription medications, a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food (don’t forget pet food), a first aid kit, a flashlight, matches, blankets, and changes of clothing.
  • Keep your gas tank filled. Since you will likely need your automobile to evacuate your area, it is a good rule of thumb to always refill your gas tank when it dips below half.

7 Disasters and the Steps You Should Take

Here are emergency preparedness specifics for each of the following types of disasters:

  • Earthquake. “Drop, take cover, and hold on.” This means you should drop to the ground, get under a sturdy shelter, maybe a desk or table, and hold on until the ground stops shaking. When the earthquake is over, follow the instructions of local authorities and put your family’s emergency plan into place.
  • Explosion. Take shelter under a desk or table during the explosion, and exit the building as soon as possible once it’s over. Avoid using elevators and be careful of hot doors, since there may be fire on the other side.
  • Fire evacuation. Have a fire evacuation plan for your family with multiple routes of escape from all rooms of the house. If you live in a multi-level home, consider installing escape ladders in the upper levels. If a fire occurs, get out immediately. Do not put yourself in danger by placing a phone call or gathering your valuables.
  • Flood. Listen to the TV or radio for information on where the flooding is happening. In the case of a flood warning in your area, you may be advised to evacuate; in this case, do so immediately. If you are under a flash flood warning, seek higher ground immediately.
  • Hurricane. If you live in a coastal area, have a hurricane plan in place with supplies to cover your home’s windows and secure outdoor objects. If a hurricane is approaching, listen to a local TV or radio station to stay informed, and be prepared to evacuate. Before you leave your home, remember to turn off your utilities and propane tanks as recommended.
  • Terrorist attack. Watch TV, listen to the radio, and check online news sources to determine how authorities suggest you react. If you are in immediate danger, quickly leave the area and contact local authorities to find out what you should do next.

How to Get Clean and Safe Air

Ted Schettler, MD, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, says that air filters, which help capture particulate pollution, play a major part in home air quality.

Clean, efficient fans and filters on dehumidifiers, furnaces, refrigerators, and other appliances allow them to function efficiently and can also reduce moisture in the air and minimize particulate pollution in your house.

Similarly, for home safety, it’s important to vacuum or dust smoke and carbon monoxide detectors frequently, as spider webs and dust can limit their effectiveness. While you’re dusting, take a moment to test them and make sure the batteries are still working.

Take these steps throughout the year to improve the air quality inside your home:

  • Be sure air vents between the indoors and the outside aren’t blocked by snow, leaves, dirt, or other debris, depending on the season.
  • Vacuum rear grills on refrigerators and freezers, and empty and clean drip trays to prevent mold growth.
  • Be diligent about fixing any plumbing leaks — even small drips can create favorable conditions for mold growth and affect air quality.
  • Clean clothes dryer exhaust ducts and vents.

What’s in Your Garage?

In general, air circulation inside a home should be encouraged, but air shouldn’tcirculate freely between an attached garage and your family’s living space. Car exhaust and other pollutants found in garages can have a serious, negative effect on the air quality inside your home and on your home safety. Make sure the door between the garage and your home seals completely, and keep weather stripping in good repair.

Tips for Year-Round Home Health

These seasonal tasks can help improve your home’s “health:”

Spring

  • Clean your air conditioner and have it serviced as necessary, at least every two years; clean and replace the filters as necessary.
  • Turn off the gas furnace and fireplace pilot light if applicable.
  • Check your home’s sump pump to ensure it’s functioning properly before the spring thaw.
  • Clean ceiling fans so they don’t spread accumulated dust particles throughout the house.

Summer

  • Inspect and repair vermin screens on chimney flues.
  • Inspect chimney flues and outdoor electrical fixtures for bird nests, which can prevent ventilation of combustible gases, decreasing air quality and posing potential fire hazards. Repeat this task in the fall.
  • Inspect the outside perimeter and trim shrubs and bushes away from the house, foundation, and roof, as growth that’s too close to the house can promote algae and mold.

Fall

  • Clean humidifiers in preparation for seasonal use.
  • Remove screens from windows where they might trap condensation on glass, promoting mold growth.
  • Sweep the chimney to remove creosote buildup and inspect for necessary repairs.
  • Seal any openings on the exterior of the house to prevent rodents and other pests from entering.

Winter

  • Test for carbon monoxide and radon levels.
  • Clean humidifier(s) regularly when in use.
  • Clean air vents on heating systems and space heaters, and be sure to service your furnace/heating system at least every other year.

Home From Flooding

Flash flooding can literally happen in an instant, and even nonviolent, slow-moving thunderstorms can overwhelm creeks and rivers, leading to serious flooding. Regardless of the cause, flooding can jeopardize your family’s safety and well-being.

Flood Control Measures to Consider

It may be impossible to prevent flooding, but flood control is possible. Follow these practical flood control tips to limit potential damage inside and outside your home:

  • Keep gutters clean and make sure downspouts drain water away from your house.
  • Maintain clear paths for storm water to travel, ensuring that storm drainage ditches are free of sticks, rocks, and other debris and can alleviate overflow that damages homes and surrounding property.
  • If you can, install a small floodwall or use sandbags to regrade your yard.
  • As a flood control precaution, install check valves and backup sewer valves to prevent water from backing up in your home’s drains.

Planning and Preparation Help Reduce Losses

Considering flood control as you perform routine maintenance on your home is the first step in safeguarding your family and property in the event of a flood. Being prepared for flooding if or when it occurs is just as important.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend these steps and precautions:

  • Know your home’s projected flood elevation and place electrical sockets and other components at least 12 inches above that point.
  • Situate your furnace, washer and dryer, and other appliances on concrete blocks or otherwise raise them so they, too, are at least 12 inches higher than you home’s projected flood elevation point.
  • Create a flood plan and “flood file” with must-have information, such as your insurance policy number and agent’s contact numbers, and friends and relatives you can contact in case of emergency. Keep the file in a safe (high and dry) place, and let caregivers and babysitters know where to find it.
  • Stock a waterproof box with at least three days’ worth of canned foods, bottled water, medications, first aid supplies, a battery-powered radio, flashlights, and fresh batteries (or a hand-powered generator), basic cleaning supplies, some cash, and any other essential items you will need in case of an emergency. If you have pets, remember their needs as well.