Posted by: elisabethdawn | December 19, 2009


Tornados are rare but not unheard of in Utah (about two per year are reported). Recently a tornado slammed into Manti in central Utah. The twister tore roofs off houses, downed power lines, uprooted trees and left a trail of destruction a block wide and about ten blocks long. A larger tornado struck Salt Lake City in 1999. That tornado tore through downtown and caused more than $150 million in damage. In other areas, they are quite common. In any case, it wise to have a plan.

Here are a few things we can do, courtesy of the Institute for Business and Home Safety:

  • Decide in advance where you will take shelter (a local community shelter, perhaps, or your own underground storm cellar or in-residence “safe” room). When a tornado approaches, go there immediately. If your home has no storm cellar or in-residence “safe” room and you have no time to get to a community shelter, head to the centermost part of your basement or home — away from windows and preferably under something sturdy like a workbench or staircase. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.
  • Become familiar with your community’s severe weather warning system and make certain every adult and teenager in your family knows what to do when a tornado “watch” or “warning” sounds. Learn about your workplace’s disaster safety plans and similar measures at your children’s schools or day care centers.
  • Study your community’s disaster preparedness plans and create a family plan in case you are able to move to a community shelter. Identify escape routes from your home and neighborhood and designate an emergency meeting place for your family to reunite if you become separated. Also establish a contact point to communicate with concerned relatives.
  • Put together an emergency kit that includes a three-day supply of drinking water and food you don’t have to refrigerate or cook; first aid supplies; a portable NOAA weather radio; a wrench and other basic tools; a flashlight; work gloves; emergency cooking equipment; portable lanterns; fresh batteries for each piece of equipment; clothing; blankets; baby items; prescription medications; extra car and house keys; extra eyeglasses; credit cards and cash; important documents, including insurance policies.
  • Move anything in your yard that can become flying debris inside your house or garage before a storm strikes. Do this only if authorities have announced a tornado “watch,” however. If authorities have announced a tornado “warning,” leave it all alone.
  • Don’t open your windows. You won’t save the house, as once thought, and you may actually make things worse by giving wind and rain a chance to get inside.
  • Don’t try to ride out a tornado in a manufactured home. Even manufactured homes with tie-downs overturn in these storms because they have light frames and offer winds a large surface area to push against. In addition, their exteriors are vulnerable to high winds and wind-borne debris.

For more information about Tornados, visit NOAA‘s website, detailing the basics about tornados and things we can do to prepare for them.

Posted by: elisabethdawn | December 19, 2009


In 2008, there were 3,320 civilians that lost their lives as the result of fire, killing more Americans than all natural disasters combined (U.S. Fire Administration). They can start at home or far away, but they quickly spread, leaving little time to prepare in the moment.

Because 84 percent of all civilian fire deaths occurred in residences, it is wise to prepare the area around your home. Since vegetation is fuel for a wildfire, reduce the risk around you by modifying or eliminating brush, trees and other vegetation near your home. The greater the distance is between your home and the vegetation, the greater the protection. FEMA recommends to:

  • Remove vines from the walls of the house.
  • Move shrubs and other landscaping away from the sides of the house.
  • Prune branches and shrubs within 15 feet of chimneys and stove pipes.
  • Remove tree limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns.
  • Replace highly flammable vegetation such as pine, eucalyptus, junipers and fir trees with lower growing, less flammable species. Check with your local fire department or garden store for suggestions.
  • Replace vegetation that has living or dead branches from the ground-level up (these act as ladder fuels for the approaching fire).
  • Cut the lawn often keeping the grass at a maximum of 2 inches. Watch grass and other vegetation near the driveway, a source of ignition from automobile exhaust systems.
  • Clear the area of leaves, brush, evergreen cones, dead limbs and fallen trees.

If you see a wildfire, call 9-1-1. Don’t assume that someone else has already called. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly, and answer any questions asked by the dispatcher.

Before the Fire Approaches Your House

  • Evacuate. Evacuate your pets and all family members who are not essential to preparing the home. Anyone with medical or physical limitations and the young and the elderly should be evacuated immediately.
  • Wear Protective Clothing.
  • Remove Combustibles. Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space.
  • Close/Protect Openings. Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors, pet doors, etc. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
  • Close Inside Doors/Open Damper. Close alt doors inside the house to prevent draft. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.
  • Shut Off Gas. Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
  • Water. Connect garden hoses. Fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water.
  • Pumps. If you have gas-powered pumps for water, make sure they are fueled and ready.
  • Ladder. Place a ladder against the house in clear view.
  • Car. Back your car into the driveway and roll up the windows.
  • Garage Doors. Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out. Close all garage doors.
  • Valuables. Place valuable papers, mementos and anything “you can’t live without” inside the car in the garage, ready for quick departure. Any pets still with you should also be put in the car.

Preparing to Leave

  • Lights. Turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.
  • Don’t Lock Up. Leave doors and windows closed but unlocked. It may be necessary for firefighters to gain quick entry into your home to fight fire. The entire area will be isolated and patrolled by sheriff’s deputies or police.
Posted by: elisabethdawn | December 19, 2009


Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters other than fire. Many Utah areas are susceptible to flooding after heavy rains or thunderstorms. Floods can be slow, or fast rising depending on their intensity and can cause substantial loss of life and property damage. After a flood, cleanup and sanitizing is an important step toward restoring homes, businesses and farms.

Little can be done to prevent damage from a flood. However, making copies of important documents is a good idea. These can include passports, bank information, birth certificates, mortgage papers, deeds, etc. FEMA recommends keeping copies in your home and storing the originals in a secure place outside the home, like a bank safe deposit box. Get flood insurance if you can.

During a flood, remember…

– Don’t walk through flooded areas. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down.

-Don’t drive through a flooded area. Just two feet of water can lift and move a car, even an SUV. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else during a flood.

– Keep away from downed power lines and any other electrical wires – electrocution is often a major cause of death in floods.

-Watch out for animals who’ve lost their homes during a flood. Animals may seek shelter in your home and aggressively defend themselves.

The National Weather Service has forecasts, warnings and current observations regarding flooding.

Posted by: elisabethdawn | December 18, 2009


Deaths caused by earthquakes usually result from partial building collapse, or falling objects and debris like chimneys, bricks, ceiling plaster and light fixtures. Preparing a bit now can prevent many of these hazards, and could save a life.

What to do before an earthquake: BYU recommends…

1. Secure fixtures (lights, cabinets, bookcases, etc.)
2. Store breakables (glass, bottled goods, vases, etc.) in low or closed cabinets
3. Check the electrical wiring and connections to gas appliances. (Defective electrical wiring, leaking gas or inflexible connections are very dangerous in the event of an earthquake.)
4. Develop a family plan that addresses what to do if the earthquake occurs while family members are at home, school or work.
5. Hold drills so each member of your family knows what to do in an earthquake
6. Locate master switch and shutoff valves for all utilities and know how to turn them off.
7. Prepare an office emergency kit
8. Keep extra food on hand (a 72-hour kit, etc.)
9. Always keep a pair of shoes by your bed

This last suggestion has always stuck out to me since it is something my mother has been advising me to do since I was little. If there were to be an earthquake in the middle of the night that made glass break, etc. Having a pair of shoes right there would be invaluable. I’d also recommend making sure to have a flashlight right there as well.

For more information about earthquakes, see the National Earthquake Information Center’s website.

Posted by: elisabethdawn | December 18, 2009

Pandemic Flu

As defined by the Medical Surge Capacity Coalition of Central Utah, Pandemic flu is a global outbreak of human disease. It is caused by a new influenza birus that is unlike any previous flu and is not recognized by the body’s immune system. The lack of immunity means that a pandemic flu can pass readily from person-to-person, creating widespread illness.

A pandemic may come and go in waves, each of which can last for six to eight weeks. In a pandemic, healthcare facilities could be overwhelmed creating a shortage of staff, beds, and supplies.

So what should we have on hand?

-Alcohol Wipes
-Acetominophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
-Bleach (for disinfection)
-Soap (for hand washing)
-Paper Towels (To prevent spread of the virus from regular towels)
-Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizer
-Disinfectant Wipes (for hard surfaces)
-Trash Bags
-Box of Disposable Gloves
-Juices, Liquids & Electrolyte Drinks (for hydration)
-Masks (do not share maks with another person. Have five or more for each member of your family)

For current information about the H1N1 virus, visit CDC’s website.

Posted by: elisabethdawn | November 16, 2009

Clean Air

Clean Air is an often overlooked, but extremely important element to consider when preparing for disasters. FEMA stresses the importance of this, and offers some good advice on the matter.

There are a number of disasters that would necessitate planning for this.
-Flooding can create airborne mold which can make you sick.
-Explosions can release very fine debris that can cause lung damage.
-Volcanic eruptions can project ash the length of several states, again damaging the lungs.
-Biological terrorist attacks may release germs that can make you sick if inhaled or absorbed through open cuts.

While potentially very harmful, many of these agents can only harm you if they get into your body, so it is a good idea to have a way to create a barrier between you and the contamination.

There isn’t one “perfect” way to do this, and it’s important to be prepared to improvise given the situation, but a good option is a cloth face mask. While it won’t protect you from chemical gases, it will filter some of the airborne particles or germs you could inhale. As always, something is better than nothing, and limiting how much “junk” is inhaled can affect whether or not you get sick or develop disease.

What to have ready:

Face masks or dense-weave cotton material, that snugly covers your nose and mouth and is specifically fit for each member of the family. It is very important that most of the air you breathe comes through the mask or cloth, not around it.

(You can get face masks in hardware stores that are rated based on how small a particlethey can filter in an industrial setting.)

– Heavyweight plastic garbage bags or plastic sheeting, duct tape, and scissors.
In certain circumstances, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to stay inside and block out contaminants. These materials can be used to tape up windows, doors, air vents, etc. to seal off a room. It is a good idea to pre-cut and label these materials to save time in the actual emergency.

Check out FEMA’s “shelter-in-place,” as a great guide as to how to create a barrier from outside contaminants.

These plastic coverings can also be used for insulation if the power goes out. At home, we have plastic sheets pre-cut and labeled to seal off open doorways to the room with our fireplace. When the power goes out, the fan for our gas-powered fire doesn’t work  and the heat it produces doesn’t extend very far. Sealing off the room (while being careful not to completely prevent air exchange) creates a little warm haven. Even without a fireplace, it is still a good idea to choose one room to congregate in and seal it off to conserve heat.

Another consideration, though costly, is a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filtration) Filter Fan. This will help remove contaminants from your sealed room.

Posted by: elisabethdawn | November 16, 2009

First Aid Kit

In almost any disaster, there are bound to be injuries. It may not be easy to get seen at a hospital (or even get to a hospital), and it is always good to be able to treat wounds promptly. Because of this, it is a very good idea to…

Have a First Aid Kit.

FEMA recommends that you include the following:

  • Two pairs of Latex, or other sterile gloves (if you are allergic to Latex).
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding.
  • Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect.
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
  • Burn ointment to prevent infection.
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes.
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant.
  • Thermometer (Read more: Biological Threat)
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies.

Things that may be good to have in your kit:

  • Cell phone with charger
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

Non-prescription drugs:

  • Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid (for upset stomach)
  • Laxative

Remember to know how and when to use everything in your kit. I can say from experience, having it does little good if you don’t know how or when to use it!

To learn more about First Aid, you can go to the Red Cross website to find local chapters with courses you can take to become trained.

On a side note, I’ve seen battery-charged cell phone chargers that I think would be an awesome thing to have in case of an emergency. I know that whenever the power went out at my house, it became time to seriously ration the battery I had left on my phone. Being able to recharge my phone without electricity would have been a great comfort, since power outages often follow emergencies, and it is then more than ever that I wanted to get in contact with people.
(I’ve seen them at Macey’s and Smith’s, but am sure they have them other places as well).




Any other ideas as to what should be included?

Posted by: elisabethdawn | November 16, 2009

Getting Started

Preparing for disasters can seem kind of overwhelming. Trying to plan for everything that could possibly go wrong isn’t exactly feasible, especially for those of us who are pressed for time, space and money. But there are some simple things that we can do to prepare ourselves for disasters that may come our way.

1. Store 3 gallons worth of water.

Kerry Baum, the Emergency Manager for BYU, recommends that the best way to do this is to fill 2-liter pop bottles with water, since these bottles won’t degrade as other containers, like milk jugs, will. These bottles will fit easily beneath your bed. 3 gallons is 11.35 liters, so you’ll want six 2-liter bottles. It’s a lot, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it. Do remember, though, that something is better than nothing–right now I only have 2 bottles under my bed, but I’m working up to 6.

2.  Store at least a 3-day supply of food.
Things to remember:
-The food should require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water.
-Avoid salty foods, as they will make you thirsty.
-Include a manual can opener and eating utensils with your food supply.

Also check out: Ideas for food to store.