It seems like lately just as one natural disaster is over, the next wave – windstorm or earthquake – hits. From wildfires to hurricanes to earthquakes to flooding, natural disasters are filling the news and wreaking havoc on property, communities and lives.
Not only do we offer our help and prayers for those currently in need, we want to take this time to prepare ourselves for possible local disasters.
PROTECTING YOUR HOUSE
In the last two weeks of columns we’ve reiterated how a good paint job and well-caulked windows and doors can help prevent damage to your home. It may not seem very exciting, but a solid paint job and caulking serve like a good overcoat and rubber boots for your home when it comes to wind, rain and storms.
We may not have any major storms or other disasters this winter, but it’s a sure bet that we’ll have some rain. If you haven’t taken a look at this first-line of defense at your house, it’s not too late to do so.
Remember, thanks to the generous donation of COSMO in Cosmopolis we have house painting equipment available for loan. Give us a call at (360) 533-7828 to reserve some equipment.
DISASTER BASICS APPLY
For natural disasters, some basic preparedness can be applied across the board. In other words, there are some things you can do before an earthquake that are equally helpful to have done before a major windstorm or flood. Basically, you need to think what the key, life-sustaining basics and comfort amenities you’d need to have if you lacked electricity and perhaps were even unable to leave your home for 3-5 days.
WATER, WATER ALL AROUND
Even more than food, we humans need to have water to survive. In an emergency situation, it’s good to have potable water stored – perhaps 3-5 gallons per person. Don’t forget the pets and any livestock.
Storing water is necessary because in the cities, water systems can be damaged during a disaster and those who have their own pump should remember that without electricity, their well water isn’t available. In addition, sometimes during floods water supplies can be contaminated with the result being that you can have water everywhere, but none that is safe to drink.
Stored water isn’t always tasty or safe to drink forever. So, one thing you can do is buy what your family needs and then use a gallon a week to water plants or fill the dog’s dish, buying a replacement gallon during your weekly shopping trip and rotating through it so there’s always a good supply of fresh water, you don’t have to waste water that isn’t needed for a disaster and you also spend just a dollar or two a week to keep your supply fresh. If you cannot afford this routine change, keeping the plenty of water for a long period and using it as needed will be more important than not having any and there are other sources you may have to consider.
Here are a couple other things to remember about water: Remember in a disaster, you can mine your own hot water tank for water if need be. In fact, you can even use the water in the back of your toilet tank – but in that case definitely make sure to boil it first or add a bit of chlorine bleach.
FOOD SUPPLIES NEEDED
Having canned or other packaged food on hand is important in a disaster. Remember, it’s possible – or even likely – that your power will be out, so you’ll want to have plenty of food available that isn’t stored in a refrigerator or freezer.
Think of things that are easy to store, prepare and that, frankly, you like. Of course you and your family can survive on rice and beans, but if no one in the family likes those foods, or you have no way to heat anything, it might be a long three to five days!
Perhaps, your family would do better on pasta, oatmeal or protein bars. Think ahead and then, like the water, cycle the food through, say every 3 to 6 months. (You can also find some good recipes for rice and beans!)
Especially think of canned or other put-up sources of protein. Spam, canned tuna, chicken, beef, and peanut butter might be some possibilities.
SHELTER IS KEY
Every year in disasters, thousands of homes are flooded by water, flattened by storms or made unstable by wind or earthquakes.
If something major hit, do you have suitable tarps or a tent to help you keep out the elements? Same goes for some basic tools like rope, twine, fishing line and hooks, small camp cooking set, a hammer, nails, even a hatchet or folding saw. A chainsaw with safely stored fuel could also come in handy.
Think in terms of what you would do if a window blew out or a hole developed on your roof. Have a couple key things around that could be used to solve such problems and then make sure you put those tools and supplies in places that you remember and have easy access to.
Even making sure you have extra sleeping bags, blankets and quilts, even thin ‘space blankets’ are worth your time. They not only can keep you warm on your bed in the middle of a winter storm, you may also end up using them to cover a broken window or maybe even for a makeshift bed for a neighbor in need. Don’t forget that large garbage bags make good raincoats and can keep you and your stuff warm and dry.
HEAT AND ENERGY
While the temperatures here hardly ever get to a dangerous low, being able to safely heat your house when electricity is out will make a huge difference for energy and morale in the event of a storm or disaster.
If you have a wood stove or regular fireplace have you recently cleaned the chimney? If a propane fireplace, do you keep the tank filled regularly? Do you have adequate seasoned firewood or emergency logs?
But if the disaster is an earthquake, make sure to remember that chimneys can be damaged beyond use with the ground moves.
Perhaps you have a generator. Do you have fuel safely stored that will help keep it running? When was the last time you tested it to make sure it’s still in working order? You should remember that gas stations also require electricity to pump gas. That means when the power is out, a quick trip to your local gas station isn’t going to help you!
A generator can be a real life saver when the power goes out, but please remember to closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions with special attention to keeping it outside your living quarters and far enough away so that carbon monoxide poisoning is not a concern. (We’ll give some tips on generator safety later in the year.)
Having some way to boil water or heat up some soup or other food is especially helpful. Do you have a camp stove or BBQ you could set up outside? Do you have a good supply of extra fuel bottles or an extra filled tank?
Of course you’ll want to have matches, candles, lanterns, flashlights and batteries. Why don’t you take inventory of what you have this week. Next week we plan to give you a more complete list of what you should have in your emergency kit and you can start a shopping list from there.
MORE NEXT WEEK
The topic of disaster preparedness is so important and we have a lot to say! Check out this column in the next few weeks to learn about what should be in your emergency kit as well as what things you can physically do to your house now to make it safer in case of an emergency.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.