Spring is finally here which means warmer temperatures, green grass and colorful flowers. It also means changing weather conditions and in some areas of the country, rain. Lots and lots of rain. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is advising Americans to prepare this spring for another round of potentially disastrous flooding of the kind that devastated much of Louisiana, Missouri and Texas late December/early January.
Individuals and families are advised take certain precautions in flood prone areas. These precautions are simple, but they are steps that could save your life.
- Familiarize yourself with the terms weather forecasters use to describe your area’s risk for flooding. A “Flood Watch” means a flood or flash flood is a possibility for your area. A “Flood Warning” means a flash flood or flooding has already occurred or is imminent for your location.
- Ensure your house is stocked with emergency supplies such as a Home Survival Kit that contains a 72 hour supply of non-perishable food and water, emergency lighting, Mylar blankets, first aid items, and a hand-crank/solar powered weather radio in the likely event the power is out. Maintaining communication during a flood event is crucial in ensuring you and your family can safely evacuate to higher ground without encountering closed roads or other deterrents. Your kit should also contain an emergency gas/water shut-off utility tool, medications, food/water for your pets and an extra set of weather appropriate clothing.
- Once a Flood Watch has been issued for your area, monitor changing weather conditions by tuning into your local news station or a NOAA weather band radio. Get yours here
- If a Flood Warning is issued in your area, don’t delay, head to higher ground via the safest evacuation route.
- Don’t travel through flooded roadways. According to Tom Graziano of NOAA, “flooding is the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S.” Standing water on roadsides can be deceptive. A car can be quickly carried away in only 2 feet of water. Don’t succumb to this avoidable dilemma. Turn around, don’t drown!
- Ensure your home is adequately covered for flood damage. Check out FloodSmart.gov for more information.
Parts of Texas and the Midwest are already experiencing torrential flooding. Houston, TX declared a State of Emergency this weekend after a foot of rain fell on the city in a matter of hours. Evacuations are currently taking place and search and rescue operations are in effect.
Communities along the Mississippi and Missouri River basins, parts of the southeastern U.S. from Alabama to North Carolina and low-lying areas in the Ohio River basin and the Tennessee and Cumberland River Valleys are also at risk.
NOAA announced a precipitation outlook for April through June warning of above-average precipitation for these additional areas:
- Most of California
- Gulf Coast
It is going to be a wet spring. Prepare, be vigilant and stay safe.
Credits: Red Cross Flood Safety
Historically, records show an influx of school shootings occur in the month of April prompting authorities and educators nationwide to re-evaluate their disaster preparedness plans. Experts tracking school shooting incidents theorize that many such disasters occur in April because some armed intruders want to copy or venerate what other shooters have previously done, or memorialize a date in history. Tragic school shootings that have occurred in April include:
- Parker Middle School shootings – April 24, 1998
- Columbine shootings – April 20, 1999
- Virginia Tech shootings – April 16, 2007
- Oikos University shootings – April 2, 2012
Many schools take this time to conduct preparedness/lockdown drills so students and faculty are prepared for an active shooter situation. Schools are also communicating with parents about their disaster plans in the event of an emergency. It is heartbreaking to contemplate kids in elementary school practicing how to hide from an armed gunman, but unfortunately today’s society dictates the importance of preparing for the unexpected. Tragically, the rate of mass shootings in the U.S. has tripled since 2011 and seemingly occur almost every week. It is not a matter of if, but when the next shooting will happen at a school, a church or office building.
The below basic disaster preparedness guidelines can be adapted for any organization:
The days between April 14th and 20th are filled with historic tragedies that prompt people and organizations to be wary of potential disasters. These include the fatal shooting of Abraham Lincoln, the San Francisco earthquake that killed 3,000 people and the sinking of the Titanic. Other disasters that have occurred in April include the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings and the Oklahoma City bombings. It is believed that the birthday of Adolph Hitler on April 20 sometimes prompts extremists to consider violent action or terrorist acts. We must all work together to make sure that our families, workplaces and classrooms are sufficiently prepared so that when the worst does happen, we will be “prepared, not scared.”
Residents on Shaky Ground Worry About Safety and Survival
The record number of earthquakes in Oklahoma this year is alarming residents, schools and businesses across the state as more quakes occur daily and their frequency shows no sign of stopping. So far this year more than 70 quakes have rattled the state including in rural Fairview whose magnitude measured 4.8 at the epicenter 100 miles from Oklahoma City.
The situation is generating comments such as “People are scared about what can happen…” “If you don’t feel safe in your home, what do you do…?” “What happens if a high-rise apartment house or a student dormitory collapses?”
No wonder people are alarmed: In 2014 Oklahoma experienced more than 5,415 earthquakes, including 585 quakes of magnitude-3 or more, according to the Oklahoma Geologic Survey. By comparison, in 2013 the state had only 109 magnitude-3 quakes. Oklahoma seismologists warn that substantial numbers of small quakes indicate that larger, more devastating earthquakes could erupt unexpectedly in the state where oil and gas production is the biggest industry.
Hundreds of people jammed Oklahoma’s statehouse chamber on January 15 to voice their concerns and press legislators into action. “I’m afraid my house is going to fall down while you’re considering what to do,” said Melinda Olbert, an Edmond resident whose house was rattled by a 4.3 magnitude quake in December. Many complained about the legislature’s lack of action since earthquake frequency began to escalate a few years ago. The New Yorker magazine reported that until 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of only one to two earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater each year. In 2009, there were 20. The next year, there were 42. In 2014, Oklahoma’s 585 quakes were nearly triple the rate in California. Oklahoma residents believe the earthquake problem will get even worse, and are worried about safety in their homes and infrastructures such as roads, bridges and public buildings.
“It’s scary when they happen in the middle of the night,” Oklahoma City resident Mike Kahn told National Geographic magazine. “It’s a weird feeling to feel your house shaking. Your heart is racing, you are running down the hall to check on your kids, and then you run back and check on your wife. They make your heart skip.”
What can Oklahoma residents do? Quake Kare recommends residents start to prepare, plan and practice.
How do you prepare for an earthquake?
Residents who live in earthquake prone areas should, at the very least, have a three day supply of emergency supplies stored in a secure and easily accessible location such as a garage or shed. Emergency supplies should include non-perishable food and water for all occupants of the home including pets, as well as first aid supplies, emergency shelter such as a pop-up tent and blankets, sanitation supplies, tools for search and rescue, lighting and a hand-crank or solar powered radio. Feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of creating an emergency kit? That is where Quake Kare comes in. Quake Kare’s Ultimate Deluxe Four Person 72-Hour Survival Kit is designed to prepare a family of four at home for any disaster. These kits contain emergency supplies including food, water, lighting, first-aid supplies, portable toilet/sanitation supplies, tent shelter, a solar hand-crank powered flashlight, and a weather band radio with a USB device charger that never needs batteries and is designed to charge smart phones and other USB devices.
Heavy items in the home that can topple over such as bookcases and televisions should be strapped to the wall to prevent further injury. Breakables can be secured to tables and shelves using museum putty. The Quake Kare’s ER™ Earthquake Kit contains supplies to help “quake-proof” homes and protect against damage or injury that may occur during an earthquake.
What to do during and earthquake?
When the earth starts shaking, taking proper actions, such as ‘Drop, Cover and Hold On’ can save lives and reduce risk of death or injury. If you are inside during an earthquake, drop to the floor. Take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to it firmly. Stay away from windows, bookcases, cabinets, mirrors and heavy objects. Beware of falling plaster and ceiling tiles. Stay undercover until the shaking stops. If you’re outdoors, move away from trees, signs, buildings, electrical wires and poles, streetlights and utility wires. If you’re driving, pull over and stop. Avoid overpasses, power lines or any hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking stops. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake is over. Avoid roads or bridges that may have been damaged. Remember that one or more damaging aftershocks can occur.
Last year, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that many Oklahoma earthquakes over seven years were triggered by drilling for oil and gas. Dumping toxic wastewater from the drilling process deep into the earth destabilizes faults in the bedrock, according to the report.
Many other scientists and researchers have reached the same conclusion. As a result Oklahoma legislators are discussing the issue with business leaders, consumers, civic authorities and energy industry officials. But the legislature itself won’t re-convene until February.
Snow covered neighborhood
Forecasters predict that ice and snow in winter 2015-16 will hit hard across much of the United States dumping blizzards down upon major U.S. cities, including areas normally not impacted by icy cold. Weather experts are advising people to prepare for the worst that nature can deliver this winter season. These predictions are surely sending shivers through those who survived one of the worst winters to ever hit the East Coast last year.
Few people can forget winter’s icy bombshell totaling 100 inches of snow in Boston in early 2015, or the seven feet of snow that crippled Buffalo, New York in December 2014. Thousands of homeowners and motorists feared for their lives when they were stranded, and hundreds of thousands were without power for days. For those of us last year who only experienced the snow and extreme cold via our television sets, we might not be so lucky this year. Forecasters are predicting ice and snow will impact much of the United States this winter.
What signs are pointing towards this being one of the worst recorded winters in history? The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a venerable publication founded in 1792 and North America’s oldest continuously published periodical, has traditionally been used by farmers and forecasters to determine a baseline for the year’s weather. This winter’s predictions call for above-normal snow and below-normal temperatures for New England, icy conditions in parts of the South and frigid weather in the Midwest. Snowiest periods in the Pacific Northwest will begin as early as mid-December.
The presence of El Niño is also causing forecasters to prompt warnings of a colder than usual winter season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that this year’s El Niño is among the strongest on record. El Niño will influence this winter’s weather and climate patterns by impacting the position of the Pacific jet stream. “While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favored, El Niño is not the only player,” NOAA reports. “Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.” Unpredictability until a few days before a really bad blizzard hits is one reason why experts are advising people to prepare for the worst and the potential of being stranded in their homes or vehicles.
How do you plan for the worst?
The American Red Cross and Quake Kare recommend that preparing for severe winter weather (snow, ice and extreme cold), at a minimum, should include having at hand the basic supplies below. These should be kept both in your home and your vehicle.
• Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation)
• Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation)
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radios
• Extra batteries
• First aid kits
• Baby supplies, including food and diapers
• Pet supplies, including food and water
• Basic medications and medical items
• Multi-purpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items
• Cell phone with chargers
• Family and emergency contact information
• Emergency blanket
• Maps of the area
Remember, the best way to stay safe in severe winter weather is to monitor your local forecast, stock your home with emergency supplies and stay home when the roads are slick. Only go out if absolutely necessary and make sure you have a basic car survival kit with you. Stay safe and warm this winter season!
For expert advice, contact Quake Kare toll-free at 1 800 2Prepare (1-800-277-3727).
• What do cows produce in an earthquake? A milkshake!
• What did the ground say to the earthquake? You crack me up!
• What’s the status of a nuclear reactor after an earthquake? Not cool.
• What is an earthquake’s favorite song? “Shake, Rattle and Roll!”
• What do people say when a building collapses in San Francisco? “It’s San Andreas’ Fault!”
Jokes like those have been around since the San Francisco earthquake killed more than 3,000 people on April 16, 1906 — or perhaps even since 1769, when the California’s first earthquake was recorded by the expedition led by Gaspar de Portola, governor of the Spanish colonial province. But earthquakes are no laughing matter.
California experiences more quakes than in any other state. Yet many Californians don’t feel at risk unless they live near the state’s well-known San Andreas Fault or the Hayward Fault.
That misconception gives millions of Californians a false sense of security. The truth is most people in California live within 20 miles of a major fault. Earthquakes affecting people and property can occur at any time, anywhere.
Southern California alone has about 10,000 earthquakes a year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to be felt. Hundreds are greater than magnitude 3.0, and about 20 a year are greater than magnitude 4.0. A big earthquake and its aftershock can produce more earthquakes of all magnitudes for months.
That’s why authorities in California are taking steps to ensure that citizens are educated and prepared for any earthquake disaster. April is “California Earthquake Preparedness Month.” Municipal agencies, schools and businesses are conducting readiness seminars, earthquake drills and other activities for “California Earthquake Preparedness Month.”
The state’s most recent big earthquake – 6.0 in magnitude — occurred in the Napa Valley of northern California on August 24, 2014, just eight months ago. It injured hundreds of people, wrecked homes and commercial property, disabled utility power for tens of thousands of residents and, overall, impacted more than 175,000 people. The estimated economic loss: More than $1 billion, according to the USGS.
Major earthquakes with magnitudes between 6.3 and 8.3 have occurred in California every 5.4 years on average for the last 200 years. Where will the next one strike? Nobody knows.
That’s why the American Red Cross and other agencies advise Californians and people in any at-risk earthquake zone, such as Missouri, Alaska, Nevada and Washington, to prepare with these precautions:
- Keep an earthquake survival kit in your home, car and place of work with food, portable lights, emergency radio, packaged food, water and medical supplies.
- Brace bookshelves and filing cabinets at work and home against the wall.
- Be aware of fire evacuation and earthquake plans for all buildings you occupy regularly.
- Pick safe places in your home, workplace or school, such as under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you. Avoid basements.
- Practice “drop, cover and hold” to protect yourself. Kids and seniors should do the same.
- If you don’t have something sturdy to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
- Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench for that purpose.
- If you are in bed during an earthquake, stay there. Curl up and hold on. Protect your head with a pillow.
- Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
- Stay indoors until the shaking stops and it is safe to exit.
- Use stairs rather than an elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
- If you are outside when the earth starts shaking:
- Drop to the ground. Stay put until the shaking stops — away from buildings, power lines, trees and streetlights.
- If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses and power lines. Stay inside with your seatbelt on until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.
- If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out. Wait for assistance.
- If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes!
Brian Houser of Quake Kare Points out, ““A recent earthquake in La Habra in Los Angeles County measured a magnitude of 5.1 and caused more than 100 aftershocks that were felt for days.
“California is a leader in disaster response and recovery capabilities, but firemen, police and other first responders can’t do everything by themselves to help ensure public safety in an earthquake or other emergency.
“Every citizen, every business and every organization needs to take steps to be prepared when disaster hits and not just for earthquakes but for floods, tornadoes and potential acts of terrorism,” Houser says.
“In today’s world, we must be prepared for any unexpected disaster. No matter where we live, there’s potential for catastrophe, whether natural or manmade. The best advice is to prepare yourself and your family with the best tools and precautionary procedures to stay as safe as possible.
“Have a survival kit, make a plan and stay informed. Being prepared can save your life!”
For tips on building your own earthquake survival kit, visit http://www.quakekare.com/earthquake.html