Every natural disaster has a crisis zone where victims experience the horror of life threatening danger. All around a crisis zone, others are affected by less dramatic traumas and challenges--power outages, flooding, a breakdown of infrastructure, a run on banks and stores, and a lack of services. Evacuees and refugees fill the roads, the Home Depot, the hotels, supermarkets and line up at ATM Machines.
Those escaping storms and fires evacuate to safe havens. Even if you live in an area far from a disaster zone, that disaster can affect you. Consider a few ways your home might be affected in a disaster. There are things you can do to provide a safe haven for your family and others:
1. Electrical outages occur far from the initial disaster site. After Katrina, evacuees thought they would be safe 50 miles away; the power went out there too.
- Think Water. If there's no power many do not have a way to access water.
- After a hurricane, tropical storm or flood, mosquitoes seem to multiply at 10 times the usual rate. If your power is out and it is summer, you won't want to sleep with the windows closed. Be prepared for good screens for all windows and doors or with mosquito netting or other loose weave fabric that can be taped or stapled around windows and doorways.
- Consider investing in a generator. They come in handy during power outages and brownouts throughout the year.
- Purchase glow sticks. Place them in every room in the home. White glow sticks work the best and provide light bright enough to cook or walk around without danger of tripping in the dark.
- Outdoor solar lighting can be brought indoors to help during an outage. In the morning you can take them outside and recharge them for the next night. They work great and are safe around pets and children.
2. Store foods that are easier to prepare. Foods that can be prepared without a lot of work are worth their weight in gold when you are trying to feed a crowd of evacuees.
- Have an inventory of things that store well. In addition, keep on hand foods that disappear first at the grocery store: Milk, bread, water, ice, fresh fruits & vegetables, hygiene items such as soap and toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, diapers, baby formula, headache and muscle ache medicine, anti-diarrhea medicine, insect repellent.
3. Buy Gasoline. If you live within 100 miles of a disaster, begin preparing as soon as warnings are issued or immediately after an earthquake. Fill your gas tank and keep extra gas for your generator or vehicle. The time to store fuel is ahead of disasters--now.
4. Think prescriptions. As people come to your hometown, they will be in need of prescription medications. If you are down to the last few days and an evacuation is ordered nearby, renew your prescription immediately.
5. Prepare to entertain. As conditions improve around you, children and adults will become impatient with the disaster routine. Almost certainly, you will be without electricity for a few days to a few weeks. Keep some good age-appropriate books, travel editions of favorite games, coloring books and crayons for the kids, balls and other toys for outdoor use. If you are the designated evacuation site for family and friends, you will need to have these items on hand. Everyone should have small games and other small items in a 72-hour kit.
6. Sanitation can be a huge problem. Have extra soap and toothpaste on hand for evacuees. Also consider acquiring a port-a-potty (bucket type) especially if you are dependent on well water. Wet wipes, hand sanitizers and extra water storage provide excellent water supplies for clean-up and essential laundry.
7. Garbage becomes a concern. Have plenty of large plastic trash bags or bio-hazard bags on hand. Because no one will have the energy or desire to clean up after meals, stock a supply of paper plates, cups, bowls and plastic utensils. Have a strategy for managing the waste they create.
Source: Adapted from "Preparing to Provide Refuge" by Carolyn Nicolaysen, Meridian Magazine