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Your Emergency Plan is as Easy as C-A-P

What is an emergency? Perhaps the simplest definition is “any unplanned event that causes death, injury, or property damage.”  It has been said that less than 10 percent of people in the United States are prepared for an emergency. Being prepared for an emergency is as easy as 1-2-3, or in this case just remember three things, C-A-P.

“C” stands for COMMUNICATION.  Whether it is your business (check with employees to find out what they think are the essential elements of the business) or home (check with family members to determine what actions are best to protect the family from harm). In addition to communicating within the business and home circle, reach out to community resources such as your local Chamber of Commerce and your insurance carrier to see what advice they have about recovering from an emergency.

“A” stands for ANTICIPATION.  Here in Utah we do not get hurricanes like they do in Florida, but we do have occasional flooding, massive snowstorms, and those of us in the Salt Lake area are aware we live in an area with high potential to earthquakes. Maybe your company is located next to a rail line that carries shipments of hazardous materials. You need to anticipate any possible emergencies that might happen to you or your community.

“P” stands for PREPARATION.  It all starts with an emergency preparation plan, whether you are talking about a family or a company, large or small, one location or many locations. A sufficient plan that will allow you to face any potential emergency is critical to short and long range survival. For a business’s survival, it may be important to cross-train employees, so that is some are cut off from making it to work, other employees can fill in on essential operations. A plan should include an evacuation strategy and a course of action for contacting family members to see if anything is needed until they can return home. Homes and businesses should keep a supply of water and food just in case conditions prohibit people from leaving. Energy bars, electrolyte drinks, or anything that will provide you with basic nourishment for a minimum of 72 hours.

The key to being prepared for emergencies is to remember these three things.  Do this, and your family and/or your employees will thank you when the emergency is over.

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Course 101: What to do in an emergency?

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes and they can be devastating. The impact on roadways, power stations, water plants, and water sewage treatment plants can turn the “normal routine” upside down for hours, days, even months and years. Having fires with no water to fight them or local EMTs so swamped that there are no professionally trained people to assist in an emergency is no laughing matter.

Emergencies happen without warning. There is no time to think. Whether it be a natural disaster such as an earthquake (44 of the 50 states are earthquake prone) or severe weather, or a man made disaster caused by equipment failure, such as a power outage, it is important to be prepared. By thinking, planning, and preparing ahead of time, one is able to respond quickly and calmly. The benefits of being prepared are numerous: lives are saved, injuries are prevented, and property damages are reduced. It is easier to “bounce back” from an emergency. Lets review some basics to emergency response for various disasters.

How one responds vary depending on the type of emergency. A medical emergency is the most common. Getting proper first aid training helps one determine how to quickly assess a situation calmly and with control. It also reduces the fear that often comes up when one is in an unfamiliar situation. First and foremost always keep yourself safe. People are the number one priority. Be prepared to assist others as to the location and type of emergency. Dialing 9-1-1 may be all you can do.

For weather emergencies, stay out of harms way by seeking shelter. Stay inside and clear of falling debris. “Duck, cover and hold” may be apropos. That is, seek safety underneath a table or sturdy object, cover your head, and stay put until the situation becomes safe. Stay alert for aftershocks in an earthquake situation. The impact of tornados may have created an unsafe situation so care is to be taken. Be sure to secure equipment to prevent any possible lateral movement or having equipment tip over. Shut off main valves, such as gas lines to prevent leaks.

If there is a fire, notify personnel, shut down equipment and leave or evacuate the area safely. Use and knowledge of fire suppression equipment is critical. Check for broken connectors after shutting off main valves. Check with a flashlight, do not use a match. It is important to have a designated meeting area to re-assess the situation and determine if everyone is safe and what might need to be communicated to emergency personnel.

If a chemical spill happens, stop and think. Is it hazardous? Do I know what to do? Do I have the proper equipment? Am I trained? Is this a danger to you or the facility? Do not try to clean it up, but instead, rope it off and let properly trained professional personnel clean up the spill. Again, the first rule of safety is keeping yourself and others clear of potential dangers.

Keep food and water storage, first aid kit, tool supplies, sanitation, flashlight and batteries and other emergency preparedness materials in a place that is easily accessible. Utilize water supplies such as water heater, toilets, ice cube trays, when needed in an emergency. Pre-emergency drills go a long way to instill calm and focus. Remember it is not uncommon to be isolated from your loved ones during an emergency. Being separated due to work and proximity constraints happens often. Now is the time to practice and get prepared.

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Water Water Everywhere…or Maybe Not

Yesterday I attended a brunch honoring the summer mission trips sponsored by a local church in Salt Lake City. For one trip, a couple dozen teenagers went down to a city just outside of Mazatlan, Mexico. Jeff talked about the water situation in Mexico. What he understands today (and took for granted prior to the trip) was that water is a luxury in North America.

EACH PERSON uses almost 25 gallons each day in most households for cleaning, cooking, drinking, bathing, and sanitary reasons, etc. Suddenly Jeff was without drinkable tap water. He had to travel nearly a mile and a half to turn on a pump that would fill up a cistern at the home. He had to travel several miles to Mazatlan to find a drinkable water source. Jeff woke up to just much he takes for granted the water situation here in Utah. Like Jeff, most are unaware of just fortunate we have it.

The human body can only survive three days without drinking water and because of this, water is a high priority when it comes to emergency preparedness. Should the power grid that supply water to most of our homes stop working or the local water supply become contaminated due to flooding it is going to be critical that you find a source for safe drinking water. New Orleans, Nashville, Houston, Haiti, and others have experienced this crisis.

We believe it is a good idea to have a week’s worth of water saved for your household. Most suggest a minimum of one gallon of water a day per person. Understand this ONLY refers to drinking water and does not take into account any additional water needed for cooking, bathing, sanitary reasons, etc. So take the time to make a plan and follow through by getting the needed food and water to protect your family in a time of need. Educate yourself and your family members to preserve the water you do possess. Be prepared.

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Frequently Asked Questions On Water Storage

Question: How much water should I store?
Answer: Water is your most important supply during an emergency. The amount of water a person needs will depend upon age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate. One gallon per person, per day for drinking, food preparation and hygiene should be stored with your emergency supplies. For example, a minimum of 56 gallons of water should be stored for a family of four for two weeks.

A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.

Question: Can water be rationed if supplies are low?
Answer: Never ration water. If supplies run low, drink the amount you need today and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.

Try to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don’t stock salty foods, since they make you thirsty. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.

Question: Does our hot climate mean I should store more water?
Answer: A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day; however, hot environments can double the amount of water required. Reduce your activity and stay as cool as possible to minimize the amount of water needed to stay hydrated.

Question: What is the best way to store water?
Answer: If possible, purchase bottled water and keep it sealed until ready to use. You can also store water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances.

Plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, are best. You can purchase food-grade (FDA) plastic buckets or 55 gallon drums from MBC Inc. Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Rotate water based on expiration dates on bottles or every six months.

Question: What can I do to improve the taste of stored or boiled water?
Answer: Stored or boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring it back and forth between two containers.

Question: What if we run out of water?
Answer: There are hidden sources of water in your home. You can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes, and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).

How to use water in your pipes: Shut water off to your house. Let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from a faucet located at the lowest point in the house.

How to use hot-water tank water: Be sure the electricity or gas is off before draining the hot-water tank. Open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty.

Be sure to purify water from outside natural sources before drinking it. Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. You should not drink floodwater.

When should the water into the home be shut off?

If you hear reports of broken water lines or sewage leaks turn off the incoming water valve to prevent contaminating the water in your pipes and hot-water tank.

When does water need to be purified?

Water of uncertain purity should be purified before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene. Contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.

How do I purify water?

There are several ways to purify water and none of them are perfect. The best solution is to use a combination of purifying methods. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.

1. Boiling – Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute. Some water will evaporate. Let water cool before drinking.

Boiling water will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.

2. Disinfection – Chlorine water purifying tablets or household liquid bleach will kill most microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.
Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.

Is there really an expiration date on water?

Studies show sterilized or disinfected water, stored in clean, food-approved containers with secure lids or caps should be safe for use even after many years of storage. Replacement of stored water with fresh water should be necessary only if the stored water becomes contaminated in some way or if the container should begin to leak. Be certain to label each container so there will be no question about its contents. Include the date and information on the method of disinfection used. We recommend changing properly stored water every three to five years.

How much food and water is enough?

Make sure you are “prepared” for any emergency and be able to provide essential food and water for you and your family to survive. We suggest at least a three month supply of storable food per person, and two 55 gallon drums of water per person. Remember, it is better to buy two years early rather than one day too late. All the freeze-dried and dehydrated food manufacturers combined can only handle around 10,000 clients at a time. This is a very finite resource. If you are indecisive about whether to make a food and water storage investment for you and your family, ask yourself the following simple question, it may help you decide: Would you rather have it and not need it, or need it and not have it?



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