1. Walk through a complete safety check of your home. We like to call this a ‚ÄúHome Hazard Hunt‚Äù
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, such as a house fire.
Here are some other items you should include as part of your safety check:
- Beds under windows. 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. They 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. These items could roll during an earthquake. Block the wheels 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.
By completing this checklist, your family will have a head start in preparing for a fire, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake and other possible disasters.
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.
1. Make a map of your home and include the following:
- Label every exit, including doors, windows, and hallways, which may become a potential fire escape.
- In every room, label the primary exit (usually a door or hallway) and a secondary exit (usually a window) in case the primary exit is blocked by smoke or flames.
- Label every room where a family member sleeps.
- Label the main shutoff valves of the gas, electricity, and water lines.
- Establish a safe meeting place outside the home so everyone can be accounted for. List this on your emergency phone numbers list that you have by your phone.
- Involve everyone. It is important for everyone in the family to learn how to escape. You may even want to teach your children how to escape out of windows in case the door is unavailable to exit. A good fire escape ladder is essential if your exit is through a second story window. You may want to arrange the furniture so a dresser or nightstand is under the window to make it easier to escape, especially through basement windows.
- Place your emergency kits strategically near an exit so they are easy to grab in a hurry. When you practice, assign certain family members to be in charge of getting the emergency kit.
- Practice turning off utilities (gas valves, etc.) A gas wrench is a useful tool for this.
- Practice other life-saving habits such as always leaving a pair of shoes, gloves, and a flashlight or lightstick at each person's bedside.
- Practice with time in mind. Try running through your disaster plan at least 4 times each year and adjust your plan according to the ages of family members.
3. Post two emergency phone numbers lists.
The first list of phone numbers should include all emergency phone numbers you might need to contact in the event of an emergency, such as:
- Any emergency--911
- Fire department
- Police department
- Family doctor
- Poison control center
- 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 since 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 becoming prepared. Just follow these steps and preparing your family and home for emergencies is as easy as 1, 2, 3!