sanitation

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 Storage

“NEXT TO AIR, WATER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT REQUIREMENT FOR LIFE. MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS HAVE ENOUGH ON HAND.”

The new millennium has come with a fierceness we have not seen, perhaps ever.  The last decade of disasters, including a tsunami, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and floods, have woke many of us up to this simple fact: WATER is a critical component of preparedness for any emergency situation.  Clean water is essential for emergency medical treatments, drinking, food preparation, and sanitation.  Government agencies (FEMA, USGS, OES, etc.) and relief agencies such as the Red Cross, have elevated recommendations for preparedness from the traditional “three days of self-sufficiency” to “five to seven days minimum and seven to fourteen days recommended” in recently published planning scenarios.

Why is water a key in these recommendations?  Experts indicate that some aqueducts and reservoirs may be inoperative for up to 3-6 months, and the piping systems required to distribute the water to homes and businesses could also be severely disrupted for long periods of time.  An all too painful reminder: The fall 2009 Reusable Industrial Packaging Association (RIPA) meeting was held in New Orleans.  I toured the NOLA community to discover it is still reeling five years after hurricane Katrina brought it to its knees.

Definitive care specialists have shown the importance of water on our wellbeing.  A loss of only 5-10% of a person’s body fluids can result in moderate shock that may become life threatening if left untreated.  The simple fact is that human body can not survive even one week without water.  In general terms, the body requires four times as much water as food.  For persons trying to respond to or recover from an emergency, body fluid loss can occur rather quickly depending on temperature, activity level, emotional state, and/or possible injuries.  A basic treatment for shock is to maintain body temperature and to give fluids, especially water.

It is important that an adequate supply of water be properly stored BEFORE an emergency so it is readily available without the need for filtration, boiling, or treatment.  Keep water stored for emergencies free from bacterial growth and other contaminants.  A recent Utah State University study showed much of the water they tested that was stored contained bacteria, 11% contained E-Coli.  They make two key recommendations: store the water below 21 degrees C and that all stored water have chlorine bleach added (16 drops per gallon – 3 tablespoons per 55 gallon drum) to ensure safety for emergency use.  In short, treat water with a preserver prior to storage or empty and replace regularly with fresh, clean water.  Store in a cool, dry area, away from direct sunlight.

Ideally, water should be stored in three forms: 1) In portable containers, suitable for dispensing, for personal drinking, food preparation and sanitation.  2) In large volume drums or containers with a dispensing pump for all uses.  3) In small portable containers or medical or first-aid use as needed.  The best material for 2.5 to 55 gallon water storage containers is food grade polyethylene that meet the US Department of Transportation (DOT) specifications.  While the containers may have components made from other materials, only polyethylene touches the water.  On smaller, pre-filled, packages, look for products with “sterile” packaging and a minimum 5 year shelf life.

The easiest way to store the bulk of your water is in 55 gallon polyethylene (plastic) water drums (Food and Drug Administration, FDA, approved for storing drinking water).  The drums available at MBC are the best industry has to offer and are designed to have weight stacked on them when filled with water.  This allows one to stack your food on them, thus saving space while keeping your food and water together.  Some survival experts recommend two 55 gallon drums of water per person.  This, along with collecting “rain water”, should be suitable.  When you consider most households use in excess of 100 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing, laundry, dishes, sanitation, etc., this isn’t a lot of water.

Water that we take for granted when things are normal, become absolutely essential for life and a vital resource in any disaster.  The lessons we have learned this past decade have taught us if we take our water supply for granted, we will regret it.

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