• Preparing for Minor Emergencies

    Minor Emergency - Train Derailment This derailed train forced us to evacuate our home.

    When I was a young, budding teenager, we lived on the outskirts of town. Everything to the front of us was houses, subdivisions, and city, but behind us were trees, a farmer’s field, and further still, railroad tracks. One chilly winter evening, we received word that we had to evacuate. As it turned out, a train had derailed and spilled its contents of ammonia.

    5,000 people were ordered from their homes.

    We were definitely unprepared for this abrupt evacuation order, but we just as certainly couldn’t stay home. And, if my memory serves me correctly, we didn’t have too long before we had to be out. Fortunately, we had some relatives on the other side of the city that were out of town, so we were able to stay there for two days until the spill was cleaned up.

    But what might have happened had we not had that familial resource across town? We had no other shelter or way to cook food. We would have been eating at McDonald’s for the next two days (which us kids would have loved), but that most certainly would have strained the family budget.

    Not only that, this happened in the winter time. Up in Canada where I grew up, winters can be brutal. There was no way we could camp out in the family minivan. We were lucky we had somewhere to go.

    This isn’t the kind of disaster we normally worry about. Never in my imagination would I have thought I would have to evacuate my home because a train dumped ammonia everywhere. There are other minor emergencies and disasters we might not consider. Power outages, broken water mains, locking yourself out of your home, medical emergencies, and other situations we just can’t quite comprehend ever happening to us. But, just like the train and ammonia event, we have to be prepared for anything.

    Victoria Gazeley of Modern Homesteading suggests that if you’ve been preparing for major disasters, it’s highly likely that you have a lot of what you need for the smaller, more minor emergencies. Power outages are a more common occurrence than ammonia spills, but are you ready for one of those?

    Minor Emergencies - Power OutageJust in case of a power outage (or other minor emergency), Gazeley recommends having a backup method for cooking food, like a Kelly Kettle. The Optimus Polaris Stove is another great alternative option for cooking when the power goes out. Alternate sources of light, power, heat, and water are also important resources to store. Check out the Government of Canada’s site for more information on preparing for power outages.

    These resources are not only good for power outages, but a host of other minor emergencies as well. Remember, a huge tornado or a massive earthquake aren’t the only things that can come in and disrupt your life. While it is still important to prepare for those major disasters, take the steps necessary to ensure that you will also be prepared for minor emergencies as well. When there’s a proverbial ammonia spill, the time to prepare has ended.


    How have you prepared for minor emergencies? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: ammonia spill, minor emergencies, power outage, evacuation

  • Preparing Children with Emergency Signs

    Preparing children for emergencies is essential for families. You can train most children, even young ones, how to react to a disaster. You should create an emergency plan for natural and human-caused disasters, then practice at least twice a year so everyone knows where to go and who to contact in case they need to evacuate, recommends the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

    However, babies can’t be trained. Pets usually have trouble following an evacuation plan. Some special needs family members can’t be trained or may have trouble communicating or moving. Some use medical equipment like concentrated oxygen, which is explosive in a fire.

    Preparing Children - Baby on BoardThough not for everybody, emergency signs can be useful to those populations. These include window stickers that indicate children’s bedrooms, oxygen signs, medical alert stickers and bracelets, and car signs like, oh, yeah, “Baby on Board.” “Baby on Board” signs were so ubiquitous in the mid-1980s they even inspired a song on “The Simpsons.”

    The advantage is simple: the more information first responders have, the better, said Trooper Josh Lewis from the Colorado State Patrol.

    An autistic boy from his church congregation wandered away from home, which caused an hours-long search. Fortunately, the boy wore a medical alert bracelet.

    “Should law enforcement come across him and see … the medical alert bracelet, we would much rather have the information than not,” Lewis said.

    Medical alert stickers are available.

    Preparing Children - Autistic ChildEmergency signs are useful on cars too. A sign like “Autistic child may not respond to verbal commands” or even “Baby on Board” helps first responders be more alert, Lewis said.

    “Any time we respond to a crash and see a car seat or anything that has to do with a kid in a vehicle, we are going to scour the area,” he said.

    Advocacy groups often recommend emergency alert window stickers for apartment buildings, said Ken Willette, division manager of the public fire protection division of the NFPA. They help responders know where to search first. Private homeowners may also post the stickers.

    “It’s all about life and safety. If people feel comfortable putting up a warning label or sign to let first responders know they might need special services, that’s a good thing,” he said.

    Preparing Children with OxygenOxygen signs are not voluntary, Willette said. Many states require people to post an oxygen sign if they have compressed oxygen cylinders in their home. Remember the movie “Apollo 13”? A single spark in its oxygen tank destroyed the spacecraft.

    Emergency responders like to know if they’ll be facing something like that. Wouldn’t you?

    Voluntary signs like child stickers in windows can come with disadvantages, according to the NFPA.

    First, they can create a false sense of security and imply that children should wait for rescue. Parents need to teach children to respond immediately when the smoke alarms sounds, know two ways out of every room, crawl under smoke, gather at a meeting place and call the fire department from outside a burning building, according to the NFPA.

    Second, emergency signs can suggest vulnerable areas in the home to intruders. They also open up owners to the abuses from bullies. A mother in Utah who had an autism warning sign for first responders on her car came out one morning to find somebody had defaced it with stickers that read “spoiled brat” and “unetitled” (sic).

    Preparing Children - Tag their roomFinally, and most importantly, when children change rooms or grow up, the window signs need to change rooms or be removed. Firefighters could waste vital rescue time looking for a child who isn’t there, a NFPA brochure said.

    With all that in mind, if you choose to use emergency signs, or must use them by law, follow two directions. Make sure the signs are visible and take them down when they don’t apply. Whether or not you use emergency notification equipment, do contact emergency services in your area if you have family members with special medical needs. Some fire departments can enter that information so it will show when dispatchers access an address, Willette said. If you have medical equipment that requires electricity, tell power companies so they can prioritize that during outages.

    “As long as you feel comfortable, first responders would much rather have the information than not,” Lewis said.

    Emergency notification signs, bracelets, and stickers are available in many places. I found them for sale with a simple Web search and on Amazon.com. Some fire departments sometimes have free window stickers. I also found free printable signs with a Google search. As you see, preparing children is more than just teaching them about disasters. It's about informing others around you to take extra care as well.


    - Melissa

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: emergency sign, baby on board, preparing children

  • The Hayward Fault is Overdue for a Massive Quake

    “The reality is a major quake is expected on the [Hayward] fault ‘any day now.’”

    Hayward FaultBay Area residents beware. Tom Brocher, a US Geological Survey Scientist, thinks such a quake is a very real possibility. In fact, the US Geological Survey (USGS) website describes how USGS scientists refer to the Hayward fault as a “tectonic time bomb.” But does anybody know the time it’s set to go off? Probably not. But just because we don’t know exactly when it can happen, we know that it could still happen at any time. That’s why the USGS and other organizations “are working together with new urgency to help prepare Bay Area communities for this certain future quake.”

    You may have heard about the 4.0 earthquake that rattled the East Bay area in California last Tuesday at 2:41 in the morning, and was just one of many earthquakes commonly occurring around the bay area. It produced 13 aftershocks. Although these aftershocks were all very minimal, this fault has been quite an active geological threat. Brocher said they “keep a close eye on the Hayward Fault because it does sit in the heart of the Bay Area and when we do get a big earthquake on it, it’s going to have a big impact on the entire Bay Area.”

    1868 Image - USGS.gov 1868 Hayward Fault earthquake damages the Alameda County Courthouse - USGS.gov

    The last time the Hayward fault released a big quake was way back in 1868. There were thirty people killed and a lot of property damaged. But that was nearly 150 years ago, and the local population is now 100 times bigger than it was back then. How many more lives will be impacted when this next major quake does happen?

    According to Brocher, major earthquakes along this fault system occur about every 140 years. And, just like the behemoth of the Cascaida subduction zone, we are overdue for a big one. Don’t worry, though. This most recent 4.0 quake will “not likely…have much of an impact…on the likelihood of a major earthquake occurring on the same fault.” Rather, Brocher (along with the rest of USGS) is merely stating that there’s an earthquake coming, and like it not (or believe it or not), you could be seeing it any time.

    Speaking of time…did you notice the time when the latest Hayward fault quake hit? It was at 2:41 in the morning. So when I say “any time,” I mean that quite literally. You could see (or feel, rather) this earthquake any time of day, night, or, as we see here, in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know about you, but I’m usually sleeping at that hour (I say usually, but with a newborn waking up every hour or two, chances are I’ll be awake no matter what time an earthquake hits).

    Hayward Fault can happen at any time tweetDespite the concern of the “certain future quake,” as USGS calls it, they sent out a reminder tweet on Twitter stating that “although a Hayward fault quake CAN happen any time it does NOT mean it’s expected any day now.” So don’t worry, the Hayward fault quake is not destined to go off in the next day or two. Although it most certainly could, what they are stressing is the fact that, sooner or later, that fault line is going to produce a very violent earthquake. They just want you to be ready for it.

    So, how does that impact you? Well, for starters, I do hope you will begin (or continue) preparing. Whether or not the Hayward fault quake happens tomorrow, the next day, or years after you move to the other side of the country, your earthquake kit will help you when you need it. And if not for an earthquake, you can most certainly use it for some other disaster, too (they’re versatile like that).

    Because you could be sleeping during an earthquake, make sure to secure wall hangings, decorations, or anything else that could fall on you in the middle of the night should the shaking and quaking start. That being said, you might as well secure anything that could fall down in your house and become a danger. Pictures, bookshelves, and even kitchen cupboards should be secured.

    While I understand that this news isn’t, well, new, it is still important that we be reminded of potential disasters so we can get our emergency prep together. Who’s really to say when this next big earthquake will strike? What I do know is, though, we all need to continue preparing, because sure as day (or night), if we aren’t prepared, that’s when the disaster will happen. So go on out, get yourself an earthquake survival kit, and be prepared for whatever big one hits your neighborhood.


    Hayward Fault - Be Prepared


    How are you prepared for an earthquake? Let us know in the comments below!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: USGS, Bay Area, Hayward fault line, Earthquake

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