1. Walk through a complete safety check of your home. We like to call this a “Home Hazard Hunt”
One of the most important things you can do, especially if you live in an older home, is to make sure certain parts of your home comply with the latest residential building codes. Local building codes were created with your family's safety in mind. They were designed to prevent an emergency situation from turning into a disaster.
Here are some other items you should include as part of your safety check:
- Move beds out from under windows that may break in the event of an earthquake or falling trees.
- Beds directly below shelves or hanging lights - the lights or objects on shelves could fall on sleepers below.
- Beds below heavy mirrors or framed pictures - heavy objects on the wall will easily fall during an earthquake.
- Heavy lamps on bedside tables- they could fall over onto sleepers. Fasten lamps securely to tables or replace heavy lamps with light, non-breakable lamps.
- Hanging plants in heavy pots- the heavier the pot the more likely it is to fall in an earthquake causing injuries.
- Breakable or heavy objects on shelves -an earthquake could shake them off the shelf - consider a cabinet with latching doors instead of shelves.
- Loose latches (such as magnetic push latches) on cabinets and cupboards -cabinets could swing open during an earthquake, causing the contents to spill. Replace them with new latches that will hold during an earthquake.
- Glass bottles in medicine cabinets - put items stored in glass containers on lower shelves or to the back of the cabinet.Some shelves have a shelf railing to prevent items from falling off. (Note to parents: make sure you use childproof latches when you move things to lower shelves).
- Glass containers around the bathtub - could easily break.
- Flammable materials close to heat sources - painting or cleaning products should be stored in the garage or outside in a shed. Newspaper or cardboard should be recycled or thrown away.
- Heavy or glass objects next to the exits or escape routes in your house - they can block exits and escape routes.
- Objects with wheels - objects could roll during an earthquake. Block the wheel so the object cannot roll.
- Tall, heavy furniture (such as bookshelves and china cabinets)- attach furniture securely to the studs in the walls to prevent them from tipping over.
- Heavy appliances such as refrigerators and water heaters – these should be attached to the studs in the walls.
- Dead or diseased tree limbs near the house - tree limbs could fall and damage the house or hurt people passing by.
- Air conditioners and swamp coolers - be sure they are well braced to prevent falling.
- Roof tiles - make sure they are securely in place.
Completing this checklist will give your family a head start preparing for a fire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake and other possible hazards.
2. Create an emergency evacuation plan for your home and family.
In an emergency situation, every second counts. That is why it is essential that your family be familiar with the primary and secondary exits of your home.
Start with a map. Draw a map of your house and include the following:
- Every exit, including doors, windows and hallways
- The main shut off valve of the gas, electricity and water lines
- The room each family member sleeps in
- Indicate the best path to exits from each room of your house
- Identify a meeting place outside of the home to go to immediately upon evacuation
Practice, practice, practice! No evacuation plan will work unless it is practiced on a regular basis. Involve the whole family and also practice other safety habits such as always leaving a pair of shoes and a flashlight by each bed. When you practice the evacuation plan, assign certain jobs to each family member.
Practice your evacuation plan with time in mind. Try running through your plan at least 4 times each year and adjust it according to the ages of your children and if you move to a new location.
3. Post two emergency phone lists.
The first list of phone numbers should include all emergency numbers you might need to contact in the event of an emergency, such as:
- Fire Department
- Police Department
- Poison Control Center
- Family doctor
- Utility company hotline
The second phone list should consist of relatives you would want to contact in a disaster situation. If possible you should also arrange for one out of state relative to be your contact person as local lines are often unusable in emergency situations. Your out of state contact can let other worried loved ones know you are all right.
All of this might seem overwhelming at first, and it is if you try to do it all at once. We recommend setting a goal or several goals to accomplish on your path to get prepared. Just follow these steps and preparing your family and home for emergencies is as easy as 1, 2, 3!