Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States (including Pennsylvania), destroying thousands of homes and costing billions of dollars each year. No matter what part of the commonwealth you live in, you should be prepared for a flood emergency - especially if you live near water, in a low-lying area or down-stream from a dam.
You can protect yourself by being prepared and having time to act. Local radio or television stations or a NOAA Weather radio are the best sources of information in a flood situation. Find out how you can be prepared for flooding in your area at www.ReadyPA.org.
If you've seen the news recently, you know that emergencies can happen suddenly in communities just like yours, to people just like you. Disasters like major flooding, widespread wild fires, tornado outbreaks or earthquakes can either trap you in your home or force you to flee quickly.
We should all be prepared to make it on our own for at least three days during an emergency by following these three easy steps:
- Get a Kit: Keep enough emergency supplies on hand for you and your loved ones - things like bottled water, foods that won't spoil, a first aid kit, extra medicines, flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries.
- Make a Plan: Work together with loved ones, trusted neighbors, co-workers and others on an emergency plan.
- Be Informed: Learn about the disasters that are most likely to occur in Pennsylvania, how to prepare for them, and what to do if disaster strikes your area.
Visit www.ReadyPA.org for sample kits, plans and other preparedness information.
Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for help. Post these and other emergency telephone numbers by every telephone in your home. Visit www.Ready.gov/kids for fun emergency preparedness information for children.
Take a moment to imagine that there is an emergency, like a fire in your home, and you need to leave quickly. What are the best escape routes from your home? Find at least two ways out of each room. Now, write it down - you've got the beginning of your family's emergency plan. Visit www.ReadyPA.org for templates you can use to create an emergency plan for you and your loved ones.
In some emergencies you may be required to turn off the utilities at your home. To prepare for this type of event:
- Locate the electric, gas and water shut-off valves.
- Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
- Teach adult family members how to turn off utilities.
If you turn off the gas, a professional must turn it back on. Do not attempt to do this yourself.
For more emergency preparedness information, visit www.ReadyPA.org.
Read Pennsylvania's Emergency Preparedness Guide, print it out and keep a copy in your emergency supply kit. The guide has information on the top ten emergencies that can happen in Pennsylvania as well as what you need to do to before and after disaster strikes. It contains: supply checklists for your home, car and workplace; information for those with special needs (including older Pennsylvanians, those with special medical needs, children and pets, service animals and livestock); phone numbers for emergency management agencies and Department of Health offices in your area; and an emergency plan that you can use to fill in all of your important information (including wallet-sized cut-out cards). Visit www.ReadyPA.org for more information.
You should identify different locations where you can meet loved ones after a disaster strikes. Start with at least two. Choose one right outside your home in case of a sudden household emergency, such as a fire. The second place you choose needs to be outside your neighborhood, in case it is not safe for you to return to your home. For more information on making an emergency plan for your family, visit www.ReadyPA.org.
For many of us, our pets are part of our family. However, most emergency shelters will not allow your pets to stay with you because of health regulations. Find out ahead of time how to care for your pets when disaster strikes. Animals should never be left behind. Instead, make arrangements ahead of time to take them to a veterinary office, family member's home or animal shelter during an emergency. Also be sure to keep extra items for your pets like food, water and medicines and keep photos of your pets that you can use to help identify them later. For more information, visit the Pets, Service Animals and Livestock section on www.ReadyPA.org.
Choose an emergency contact person outside your area because it may be easier to call long distance than locally after a disaster. Take a minute now to call or e-mail an out-of-town friend or family member to ask him or her to be your family's contact in the event of an emergency. Be sure to share the contact's phone number with your loved ones. During an emergency, your out-of-town contact will be able to tell your loved ones and friends where you are; how you are doing; and how to reach you. Go to www.ReadyPA.org to fill out an emergency contact card for each member of your family.
Check your child's school website or call the school office to request a copy of the school's emergency plan. Keep a copy at home, work or other places where you spend a lot of your time and make sure the school's plan is part of your family's emergency plan. Also, learn about the disaster plans at your workplace or other places where you and your family regularly spend time. Go to www.ReadyPA.org now for more tips and information that will help you make your emergency plan.
Go through your calendar now, and put a reminder on it every six months to review your emergency plan, update numbers, and check supplies in your emergency kit to be sure nothing has expired, spoiled, or changed. Also remember to practice your emergency plan. Learn more at www.ReadyPA.org.
What if disaster strikes while you're at work? Do you know the emergency preparedness plan for your workplace? While many companies have been more alert and pro-active in preparing for disasters of all types since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a national survey indicates that many employees still don't know what their workplace plan is for major or minor disasters. If you don't know yours, make a point to ask. Know multiple ways to exit your building, participate in workplace evacuation drills, and consider keeping some emergency supplies at the office. Visit www.ReadyPA.org and click on Make a Plan for more information about business preparedness.
Fill out an emergency contact card and make copies for each member of your family to carry with them. Be sure to include an out-of-town contact. It may be easier to reach someone outside your area if local phone lines are down. You should also have at least one wired landline phone, as cordless or cellular phones may not work in an emergency. Visit www.ReadyPA.org to complete an emergency contact card for each member of your family.
A community working together during an emergency makes sense. Whether it's providing medical care, helping to clean up and rebuild, or just being there to listen to someone who needs to talk - volunteers are the foundation of their communities. Individuals of all backgrounds, professions and levels of expertise can help their community during emergencies by signing up ahead of time as a volunteer through SERVPA, the state emergency registry of volunteers in Pennsylvania. There are no training, educational or professional requirements and there is no obligation to respond to an emergency if you are called. Visit www.serv.pa.gov to sign up or learn more.
Teach children how to prepare for hurricanes and earthquakes with Ready Wrigley! Download fun activity books at www.cdc.gov/phpr/readywrigley.
You should have an emergency supply kit that contains enough essentials to meet the needs of you and your family for at least three days or longer. Keeping your essential supplies in one storage container means you can also take it with you if a disaster forces you from your home suddenly. Some of the basics to stock in your kit include:
- Enough bottled water for everyone (each person needs at least one gallon every day);
- Food that won't spoil quickly;
- Battery-powered radio and flashlight with extra batteries;
- First aid supplies;
- Change of clothing, blanket or sleeping bag;
- Dust mask;
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape;
- Cash (ATMs may not work);
- Important documents (insurance information, birth certificates, etc.);
- Manual (non-electric) can opener for canned food; and
- Special items for infants and children, older Pennsylvanians, those with special medical needs and pets.
Keep these items in an easy to carry container such as a covered trash container, a large backpack, or a duffle bag. Visit www.ReadyPA.org for a complete list of recommended emergency kit supplies.
Preparing for emergencies doesn't need to be expensive if you're thinking ahead and buying small quantities at a time. Finding essential items that are on sale is also a good, economical way to stock up.
Make a list of some foods that:
- Don't expire soon and will not spoil;
- You and your family like;
- Do not require cooking;
- Can be easily stored; and
- Have a low salt content as salty foods will make you thirstier.
Visit www.ReadyPA.org to learn about other items you should keep in your family's emergency supply kit.
When preparing your emergency supply kit or adding to it, remember to include personal hygiene items like:
- Toilet paper;
- Moist towelettes (like baby wipes);
- Soap, liquid detergent;
- Feminine supplies; and
- Personal hygiene items (like deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.).
Get more ideas at www.ReadyPA.org.
Teach children and individuals with functional needs how to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency. You should also review emergency action steps with all family members:
- Check the scene and the victim;
- Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number posted by each telephone; and
- Care for the victim.
Help your children learn more about emergencies by visiting Red Cross' Masters of Disaster.
Being ready for emergencies is important for all Pennsylvanians. But, it is absolutely vital for anyone with special needs, like:
- Older Pennsylvanians;
- Those with disabilities, special medical needs (permanent or temporary) or their caregivers;
- Children; and
- Pets, service animals and livestock.
If you or a loved one may need extra help during an emergency, visit www.ReadyPA.org and click on Special Needs to learn more. There are also many templates, checklists and other information to help you plan for future emergencies under Other Resources.
Take a minute to check your family's first aid kit, and note any missing or expired items - then, add them to your shopping list. Don't have a first aid kit? Add that to the list or build a kit yourself. Just put the following items on your shopping list and assemble a first aid kit.
Assemble a first aid kit for your home and one for each car that includes these basic items:
- Sterile adhesive bandages (different sizes)
- Gauze pads
- Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
- Antibacterial wet wipes
- Antiseptic spray/antibiotic ointment
- Latex gloves
- Safety pins (different sizes)
- Cold pack
- Cotton-tipped applicator sticks
- Aspirin and non-aspirin pain reliever
- Anti-diarrhea medication
- Emetic (to induce vomiting)
- Smelling salts
- First aid manual
For a complete checklist, visit www.ReadyPA.org.
Keep an emergency kit checklist in your purse or wallet and pick up a few items each time you're shopping and/or see a sale until you have built up a well-stocked supply that can last each member of your family for at least three days following an emergency. Visit www.ReadyPA.org for a complete list of recommended emergency kit supplies.
First responders (EMS, fire and police) and local officials will respond after a disaster, but they may not be able to reach everyone right away. That's why it's important for you to be ready to make it on your own for at least three days or longer after disaster strikes. You should plan ahead of time to ensure you have your own place to stay, food, water, first-aid, hygiene and other basic needs. Visit www.ReadyPA.org and learn more about what you need to do to be prepared for at least the first three days after an emergency.
One of the easiest ways you can prepare for emergencies is to keep some supplies readily available in your emergency supply kit. Every kit is different and should be put together based on the needs of your family. Below are some of the basic items that you may want to consider:
- Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Cash or traveler's checks, change, extra credit card
- Non-electric can opener, utility knife
- Duct Tape and plastic sheeting
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Paper, pencil
- Copies of important documents (like insurance information, birth certificates, etc.)
For more ideas of things to include in your family's preparedness kit, visit www.ReadyPA.org.
Include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear for each member of your family in your emergency supply kit:
- Long pants and long sleeves
- Thermal underwear
- Sturdy shoes or work boots
- Rain gear
- Hat and gloves
- Blankets or sleeping bags
Visit www.ReadyPA.org to learn more about the other types of supplies you can add to your kit.
Knowing what to do after an emergency is just as important as being prepared for one. Visit www.ReadyPA.org to learn more.
A flu pandemic (like the 2009 H1N1 pandemic) is a global outbreak of a new flu virus for which people have little or no immunity. Individuals, families, caregivers and healthcare workers can all take steps now to get ready for the next flu pandemic before it happens. Learn more at www.health.state.pa.us - just click on Public Health Preparedness, Pandemic.
Keep at least a three-day supply of bottled water per person. Store a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day for drinking, making food and bathing. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot weather and heavy exercise can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and people who are sick will also need more. Visit www.ReadyPA.org to learn about the other items you should keep on hand and be ready for any disaster that comes your way.
You should keep an emergency supply kit in your vehicle, in case you are commuting or traveling when disaster strikes. If you don't have a kit for your vehicle, consider starting one with these items:
- Bottled water and high energy foods that won't spoil, such as granola bars, raisins and peanut butter
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Booster cables
- Fire extinguisher (5 pound, A-B-C type)
- First aid kit and manual
- Bag of cat litter (for traction on ice/snow)
- Tire repair kit and pump
- Flares or other emergency marking devices
For more vehicle supply kit ideas, visit www.ReadyPA.org.
During an emergency, you may be asked to "shelter-in-place" (stay where you are) or evacuate (leave). Plan for both possibilities and be prepared to listen to instructions from your local, county or state officials. Visit www.redcross.org/preparedness for more information on sheltering-in-place.