September is National Preparedness Month. The recent flooding in Houston reminded us about how vulnerable cities are to both natural disaster and man-made hazards. No matter what the scale of emergency, the more prepared we are, the better we can cope and survive the disaster. Arizona is susceptible to the following public health and safety hazards:
- Dust Storms
- Extreme Heat
- Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS)
This is the largest nuclear energy facility in the United States.
- Power Outages
- Space Weather
conditions in the region of space close to the earth, especially the presence of electromagnetic radiation and charged particles emitted by the sun, that can affect human activity and technology.
- Biological Attack
- Chemical Attack
- Cyber Attack
- Nuclear Devices
- Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) (an explosive bomb with radioactive material)
- Winter Weather
The best way to prepare for these are to make an emergency plan and build an emergency kit.
How to make an emergency plan:
Discuss these questions with your household and friends to start your emergency plan:
(1) How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), designed by Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), can be sent by state and local public officials, the National Weather Service, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the President of the United States. WEAs look like text messages. So, check with your service provider if your cellphone can receive WEAs.
Emergency Alert System, also created by IPAWS, is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, satellite digital audio services and direct broadcast satellite providers, cable TV systems, and wireless cable systems to provide communication ability to the President within 10 minutes during a national emergency.
The NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, or NWR, provides 24/7 forecasts, warnings, and emergency information. The frequency channel for KEC94 Phoenix All Hazards is 162.550.
You can also download the FEMA App or American Red Cross App to receive warnings and notifications for your local area. The FEMA App provides informational resources about emergency instructions and warns you with weather related alerts; The American Red Cross App combines more than 35 different types of severe weather and emergency alerts with customizable notifications.
(2) What is my shelter plan and evacuation route?
Find out from officials if any of the buildings in your community serve as a fallout shelter during an emergency. If not, find potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school. A shelter can be a basement, subways, tunnels, or a windowless center area of a concrete/brick building. Choose a shelter appropriately according to the hazard. Sometimes, it might be better to just stay in place.
(3) What is my family/household communication plan?
If bandwidth is an issue, use text messages to communicate. You can also create a group chat for family, friends, or coworkers to communicate quickly during a disaster.
Consider special needs in your household, such as pets, ages, dietary needs, disabilities, and medical needs.
Complete a Family Emergency Plan (FEMA’s form)
Practice your plan with your household and friends to make sure that everyone understands the plan.
How to build an emergency kit:
Firstly, you should identify if there are any special needs, such as prescription drugs, pets, or any disabilities. The kit should be updated every year, making sure the food and water are still fresh and not expired.
The following are some basic must-have items:
- Food: At least 3 days’ worth of non-perishable food. (Remember to include a manual can opener for your canned food)
- Water: one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days. (This means that if you have 4 people in your household, you need to have at least 12 gallons of water.)
- First Aid Kit (including pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for sanitation
- Battery powered or hand crank radio
- Extra batteries
- Dust mask, duct tape, and plastic sheeting
- Cell phones with charger and a backup battery
- Whistle for signaling purposes
- Store important documents in a secure, password secured flash drive or in the cloud. You can use your phone’s camera as a scanning device and upload important documents, such as insurance policies, identification documents, medical records, or even pictures to protect them from loss.
- Develop a buddy system and work in groups of 2 (minimum). This can help stress management and lookout for each other.
- If you have a pet, remember to store your pet’s vaccination record in a safe place. Also, microchip your pet along with a collar/harness with ID tag and rabies tag to better identify them if lost. Remember to prepare dog food, water, and sanitation supplies for your pet as well.
- Cash or traveler’s checks, sleeping bags, matches, and personal hygiene items are also recommended to be included in your kit.
The kit should be updated every year, making sure the food and water are still fresh and not expired.
Sources: Phoenix Hazard Mitigation Plan, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American Red Cross.
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