Did You Know that Connecticut’s Greatest Natural Disaster Threat is a Hurricane?

Tags

, , ,

o-SANDY-IRENE-570That sounds like something one would expect to hear living in Florida, not Connecticut! The reality is that Connecticut has had its share of hurricanes. In fact, since 1954, eight hurricanes have struck our state. Notably, in just the past few years, we have felt the wrath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Hurricane Irene in 2011. The frequency of hurricanes reaching Connecticut seems to be increasing. Global warming may be the culprit, but we’ll address that down the road. If the frequency of hurricanes impacting our state hasn’t peeked your interest, this might – the State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection’s (DESPP) Natural Disaster Plan considers a strong Category 3 hurricane the most probable, worst-case disaster scenario facing the state. DESPP supports that ominous scenario by pointing out that two of the worst disasters to affect Connecticut were the direct result of hurricanes – one in 1938, and the other in 1955!

Does this mean we need to panic – absolutely not! However, it does mean that we need to be aware of this threat, and prepare accordingly. The best way to do this is by having a good understanding of what hurricanes are, the potential risks, and secondary threats associated with them. Only after having a good understanding of these threats – in this case, a hurricane – can we adequately prepare for it. With hurricane season right around the corner, beginning preparations early really makes sense, rather than waiting until the weather center begins warning us all that a hurricane is expected to impact our state. Remember, as a community, we need to share the responsibility of being prepared, rather than assuming that others are going to take care of us – of everything. Everyone needs to be a part of the solution (something I noted back in February)!

The State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) defines a hurricane as:

A big storm with thunder, lightning, and very strong winds. A big hurricane can have winds blowing 75 miles per hour or higher. Hurricane season in Connecticut is June 1st through November 30th. If there is a hurricane warning, take shelter right away, or evacuate if you are told to do so. You can learn more about what to do before and after a hurricane online at www.ct.gov/hurricane.

As you can see, DESPP provides a very basic, yet broad definition. Additionally, DESPP provides a link for those wishing to learn more about hurricanes. I would suggest that, at some point, you refer to the website previously mentioned for more information! Stressing a sense of urgency and a need to prepare, I would like to expand on DESPP’s definition a bit, and provide you with some detailed information relating to hurricanes. The better understanding you and your families have about hurricanes, and the threats and risks associated with them, the more likely you will be to prepare. As such, one of the first things you need to know is that often, hurricanes are associated with other hazards. These hazards include storm surges, heavy rainfall and inland flooding, high winds, rip currents, and tornados!

Storm Surges: This is the largest threat to life and loss of property! Storm surges occur from the storm’s winds causing an abnormal rise of water and are seen on the stormsurgevsstormtide_smcoastlines and large bodies of water, including lakes. These surges can reach 20 feet high – which does not include the normal tide, or the mean water level! Additionally, these storm surges can travel several miles inland, destroying or damaging everything in its path. For more information relating to storm surges I would encourage you to read more at the National Hurricane Center’s storm surge overview.

Heavy Rainfall and Inland Flooding: For people living inland, this is one of the major threats from a hurricane! Rapid water levels (flash flooding) can rise in excess of six inches. This heavy rainfall can affect rivers, lakes, streams, and other bodies of water, causing flooding that persists for several days after the storm. The amount of rainfall iscropped-800px-fema_-_32096_-_cars_drives_though_flooded_street_in_an_oklahoma_neighborhood_jpg_475x310_q85.jpg greatly dependent on the speed and size of the storm, as well as the geography of the area. The National Weather Service (NWS) noted in a study that more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather-related hazard. The reason for this, in part, is because people underestimate the force and power of water! As a means to alert people to this serious threat, the NWS has started a campaign to help reduce the staggering loss of life entitled, Turn Around Don’t Drown®.

High Winds: Much of how we describe hurricanes is based on their sustained wind SSHWSspeed. In fact, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is the standard rating system used. The scale is based on a rating of 1 to 5. A Category 1 represents a hurricane with the least intense wind speed, while a Category 5 represents the most intense wind speed. The 5 Categories also help to estimate potential property damage. For many emergency managers and town officials, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to determine whether or not there is a need to shelter in place, or evacuate their citizens. Below are descriptions of the five Categories, courtesy of the National Weather Service & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

Category One Hurricane: 

  • Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 knots).
  • Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal.
  • Air pressure: 980+ mb.
  • No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.

Category Two Hurricane: 

  • Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 knots).
  • Storm surge generally 6-8 feet above normal.
  • Air pressure: 965-979 mb.
  • Some roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees with some trees blown down. Considerable damage to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.

Category Three Hurricane – Connecticut’s Greatest Threat: 

  • Winds 111-130 mph (96-113 knots).
  • Storm surge generally 9-12 ft above normal.
  • Air pressure: 945-964 mb.
  • Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large tress blown down. Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are cut off by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering of floating debris. Terrain continuously lower than 5 ft above mean sea level may be flooded inland 8 miles (13 km) or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of the shoreline may be required.

Category Four Hurricane: 

  • Winds 131-155 mph (114-135 knots).
  • Storm surge generally 13-18 ft above normal.
  • Air pressure: 920-944 mb.
  • More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut off by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles (10 km).

Category Five Hurricane: 

  • Winds greater than 155 mph (135 knots).
  • Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal.
  • Air pressure: less than 920 mb.
  • Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut off by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required.

Courtesy of the National Weather Service & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Rip Currents: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration describe this phenomenon as channeled currents of water flowing away from the shore. Typically, rip currents are found on shorelines, through the surf zone, and past the line of the breaking waves.

Tornados: Believe it or not, tornados can manifest from hurricanes if conditions are right! The good news (if there is any) is that typically, tornadoes produced by hurricanes are relatively weak and short-lived, compared to tornados regularly seen in the Midwest! However, as with any tornado, they still pose a significant threat to life and property and should be taken seriously.

I know this is a great deal of information to grasp all at once, but I strongly encourage you to learn more about hurricanes. It is essential that you understand the potential threats associated with them, so that you can be prepared! One great way to plan and prepare for hurricane season is to begin early, and to do so in small, manageable steps. The American Red Cross (ARC) has developed a campaign as a means to put together a simple, yet effective, hurricane emergency kit – at a reasonable pace. This campaign is entitled, The 12 days of Hurricane Preparedness, and they offer a free comprehensive mobile hurricane app! Other great resources for you to check include the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center, and don’t forget to visit Connecticut’s emergency management site!

Now that you are aware of hurricanes and the potential threats associated with them, and once you have your emergency kits prepared, it’s time to cover a few more things: watches and warnings, and sheltering-in-place versus evacuating. Watches and warnings can be easily confused! As such, it is critical that you understand the difference between the two. When a meteorologist says there is a weather watch for a potential hurricane, it means that weather conditions are favorable for a hazard to occur! When a weather watch is given, pay close attention to weather conditions, and monitor the news for weather updates, as well as any instructions from your local officials. In addition, this is the time to discuss the emergency plan you previously developed with your family! When a weather warning is issued, it is time to act: a weather hazard is imminent! This means that it is either actually occurring, or will occur, momentarily. During a weather warning, you need to take immediate action! This means grabbing the emergency kit you previously prepared, and heading to safety – immediately! An easy way to remember the difference between a watch and a warning is by memorizing the following: “watch for the warning!”

Often, with hurricanes, families are required to either evacuate or shelter-in-place. When you hear one of these orders given, it is extremely important that you stay as calm as possible! You need to focus your attention on what your local officials are telling you – they are the best source of information related to evacuating or sheltering-in-place. In South Windsor, one of the most effective ways authorities use to relay an emergency message is through the Everbridge system. This notification system is free, and secure. In addition, only select town officials are authorized to use the system. Thus, should you receive a message from Everbridge, take it very seriously – your safety, and that of your family, may depend on it! You can monitor updates via your television, battery-powered radio, the Internet, and cell phones! Should South Windsor evacuationneed to convey a message, they will most likely use more then one medium to reach you. When the town officials deliver a message, or provide directions, listen carefully, and comply quickly!

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notes that, in general, sheltering-in-place is appropriate when conditions require that you seek immediate protection in your home, place of employment, school, or other location when a disaster strikes. People should take steps to prepare, in advance, in case local officials direct you to evacuate. This includes having a disaster supply kit that is portable and can be taken with you. If South Windsor’s town officials instruct you to evacuate to a specific location – do so, without delay! – Jay

Small Businesses: Increasing the Likelihood of Surviving a Disaster!

Tags

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, while communities eventually survive a disaster, fully 40% – 60% of their medium and small businesses will never reopen. Now what? If this sounds like a socioeconomic catastrophe to you, please read on! The impact to South Windsor’s community, given the large number of small businesses here would be almost unimaginable. The reality is that medium and small businesses are at particular risk because their margin, or cushion, to survive a period of unplanned closure is quite small.  Many of those businesses that have not planned for a disaster will never open their doors again. These aren’t just brick and mortar structures providing commerce – no, they are so much more than that. Our local businesses are in many ways our identity, the heartbeat of our community, and our local investment in vitality, stability, and resiliency! Thus, if you have a business in our community, you need to prepare. Your actions not only affect your business, but also the entire community. Think of this as your responsibility!

neighborsMany of our local businesses regularly and generously give back – sponsoring sports teams, charities, and other local programs. They provide local jobs and employ many of our neighbors. Many of us cherish our relationships with these businesses, and would be lost without them! As these businesses thrive and grow, they create bigger tax revenues, benefiting the entire community, our schools, police, fire, community center, etc. In the end, these businesses are a vital part of all of us. In many instances, they are why people visit South Windsor, move into town, and are an important aspect of our community, as a whole. Understanding this is important, and further clarifies the potential catastrophic impact to South Windsor, should our small businesses not reopen following a disaster.

How does our business community prevent this? Well, one great place to start is FEMA’s business preparedness website, ready.gov.  FEMA takes what appears to be a huge undertaking, and breaks it down into five manageable parts, keeping many from becoming overwhelmed! The five steps in developing a preparedness program for your business are: Program Management, Planning, Implementation, Testing and Exercise, and Program Improvement. I want to encourage all of our small business owners to explore this web site more fully. However, below is a brief summary of each step.

Program Management: This first step is to develop a preparedness policy that emphasizes the mission and vision of your business. Likewise, this policy should define the roles and responsibilities of employees before, during and after a disaster. Safety concerns of employees and consumers, along with potential work hazards, should also be addressed in this policy. Additionally, methods for minimizing interruptions and 5.1.0.0 Program Development Processdisruptions of business operations should be detailed.

Planning: This is the gathering of information and analysis portion of your business preparedness. The information needed here includes the types of hazards and risks your business may face. While it is extremely difficult for one to prepare for every potential hazard, there are many preparedness commonalities each of these hazards have. This way of thinking is called an all-hazards approach. Once you have a good understanding of these potential hazards, you can then assess the risks to your business. This process is known as a business impact analysis (BIA).

Implementation:  This is the portion of your disaster preparedness plan where the rubber hits the road! This step assists you in implementing the plans and policies your business has developed. Likewise, this is the time to train your employees, ensuring that they have a clear understanding of the plans and policies you have created.

Testing and Exercise: In order for any disaster policy or plan to be effective, everyone needs to understand their roles and responsibilities. By testing your employees, you will be able to identify any areas needing clarification, and answer any questions they may have. Likewise, this reinforces knowledge of vital procedures pertaining to facilities, systems, and equipment. Once testing is completed, the next step is to exercise the plans and policies. What may appear to be effective on paper is not always effective when implemented! Just think back to some of the policies that were written and later found to be ineffective – consider Katrina, and an uninhabitable Superdome. Understanding this is quintessential to the overall disaster preparedness process. When you exercise your plans and policies, this strengthens your overall preparedness program. Moreover, this is the opportunity for you to evaluate what works, and what needs improvement.

Program Improvement: This is the corrective action portion of your disaster program plan. The deficiencies or gaps discovered during the exercises need to be corrected and improved upon. Lastly, this is the time to write down the lessons learned and incorporate them into your corrective action plan.

While I imagine the task of developing your individual small business disaster plan may seem overwhelming, if initiated in small steps, it is quite manageable. It could save your business, and in preparing for a disaster, you and your business become part of the solution to community preparedness! Again, please refer to, and utilize, all of the enormously helpful information provided for you at ready.gov. – Jay

Yellow Dots…Have you spotted a car with a Yellow Dot in its rear window, and wondered what it meant?

Tags

, ,

yellow dot stickerNo? Well, soon you will be seeing them everywhere! These little Yellow Dots that are appearing more and more frequently on the rear driver’s side windshields could be life-saving for our senior citizens. After seeing a few Yellow Dots on some cars, I was curious, and wanted to learn more about them. So, I turned to a trusted source, and stopped by the South Windsor Police Department today. I spoke with Sargent Field, who is our community and elderly outreach officer. To my delight, he smiled, and immediately knew what I was talking about!

rear stickerHe explained that these Yellow Dots are part of a national program that is meant to immediately signal first responders (i.e. police, fire and EMS personnel) to check the car’s glove compartment for vital information – medical history, medications, hospital preference, physicians, and emergency contacts – about vehicle’s occupant(s).  Fortunately, this initiative is spreading rapidly, fueled by the growing wave of maturing citizens, and increased awareness about the program. Having a Yellow Dot on your car could prove life-saving.

The Yellow Dot program is designed to help accident victims, especially seniors, to communicate with rescuers during the crucial “golden hour,” which is the first 60 glove boxminutes after a serious accident or medical emergency. It can make the difference between life and death for the critically injured or ill person. Additionally, it will serve as a mechanism to properly care for you, and alert your next-of-kin, in a timely manner, that there is a problem.

It is a simple, yet, effective way to provide critical information about you in the event you are unable to communicate with the first responders. Participants in the FREE program receive a Yellow Dot to place on the rear driver’s side window, after completing a brief medical questionnaire. Then, first responders will be alerted to check your glove compartment for your yellow flier, which contains your vital information. It can be verified as yours, by having your photo attached.

If you are wondering how to get a photo of yourself, you only need to head over to the police department. After you have completed the medical questionnaire in pencil, the South Windsor Police Department will take your picture and scan it onto your medical questionnaire – for FREE! To speed up this process though, it is suggested that you call ahead of time, and make an appointment. The non-emergency phone number for the police department is 860-644-2551.

The Yellow Dot program is part of a national initiative sponsored by TRIAD in partnership with People’s United Bank. TRIAD, is a national community policing program wherein law enforcement professionals, community groups, and seniors partner together striving to keep older adults safe from crime. We are fortunate in South Windsor to have a TRIAD program available to us. If you would like to learn more about this program just click here: South Windsor TRIAD.

To better reach out to our senior citizens, the police department has partnered up with the adult and senior services department. These departments work collaboratively to help educate our senior citizens by providing them with training and awareness classes, meetings, and offer handouts highlighting safety tips. All of these resources are FREE! To further reach out to you, they also have a monthly newsletter!  This newsletter is entitled, “The Senior Connection.” Each month, this newsletter contains valuable TRAID (safety) tips, important phone numbers, legal aid, information pertaining to social services, upcoming exercise and informational classes, community news, and special upcoming events!

It is absolutely important that we do what ever we can for our senior citizens. They deserve it, and have earned the right to have a healthy, safe, and hassle-free lifestyle. Everything we have, and who we are as a society, is in part, because of their contributions and sacrifices. The Yellow Dot program is just one example of our community giving back to our senior citizens!

A special thank you goes out to Sargent Field for his kind contribution to this article, and for his long-term commitment to South Windsor! – Jay

Storm David…..

Tags

,

 

IMG_3976

When you look out your window, remain calm, and do not scream! I want you to remind yourself that spring is only 12 days away! If that isn’t good enough for you, WFSB’s meteorologist, Mike Cameron, was quick to note that this weekend’s temperatures will reach the mid 40s on Saturday, and possibly 50 on Sunday! So, as you are heading out to clear your driveway, walk way, and sidewalk, remember to shovel that fire hydrant!

Here is an interesting fact; many of the surrounding communities have town ordinances requiring homeowners to clear their sidewalks and fire hydrants on or near their property. However, after speaking with Fire Chief Cooney, South Windsor does not have this type of ordinance. Although, I have to confess, even though Manchester does have this type of ordinance, I have yet to see them enforce it! So, you’re asking, “How does that effect me, living in South Windsor?” The short answer is, it doesn’t affect you. The reality is you don’t have to go out there and spend an additional 10 minutes shoveling that little fire hydrant – right? WRONG – you do! Town ordinances or not, it is your responsibility! Think of it this way, after the last blizzard a few weeks ago, everyone was worried about clearing the sidewalks, and having a safe place for our children to walk, and rightly so! No one wants to place our children in any unnecessary danger by having them walk on the streets. It is, after all, really a risk we can avoid!

IMG_0267How about that fire hydrant? What is the risk? After all South Windsor has contracted with someone to clear the snow from the fire hydrants. Hold on a minute, I want to look outside – Ahhhhh, nope; the two hydrants near my house are still covered with snow. No, I am not implying that the company contracted to remove the snow is not doing their job. However, what I am implying is that it takes time, and frankly, if you can clear your driveway, walkway, and sidewalk, then you can put a little more effort it and clear the fire hydrant!

Let’s put this in perspective. It’s 1:00 AM and your fire detector is going off. You’re not sure why or what is happening. All you know is it’s time to follow that evacuation plan your kid brought home from Mrs. Foster’s 3rd grade class during fire safety week, and get out of the house! At the same time, your neighbor sees smoke coming from the side of your home and dials 911! Fortunately, you did clear the snow from your fire hydrant and when the first fire engine arrived, they were able to connect to the hydrant and suppress the fire that started in the basement. All is well!

IMG_3985

On the other hand, if you had not cleared the hydrant, our firefighters could conceivably waste precious minutes digging out that (now frozen) fire hydrant, while that small basement fire quickly turned into a raging fire. Take it a step further; firefighters arrived to find heavy flames bursting through the windows, and a family trapped. Yet, the fire department only has 750 gallons of water available on the fire. Yes, mutual aid is coming, and other firefighters are responding. Yes, as with all firefighters, I am sure South Windsor’s bravest would still burst through the doors, with or without water to save you! BUT, they shouldn’t have to place their lives in that unnecessary risk of not having enough water! SO, in the end, if not for you, and your family, or your neighbors, then for the sake of our firefighter, and their families PLEASE make every effort to shovel out the fire hydrants on your property! – Jay

 

The disaster supply kit – having one is really your responsibility!

Tags

, , ,

Why do we need to even bother buying a disaster kit, let alone trying to build one? Last I knew, South Windsor was a relatively safe area, and it is. So, is there really a need to have a disaster supply kit? The answer is a resounding YES! However, while it is important to be mindful that a disaster can strike at any time, and without warning, it is important to keep the potential of a disaster in perspective – there’s no need to get crazy, and let it consume you. Now, let’s get started on getting you and your family prepared.

Fortunately, there is no need to recreate the wheel! There are several helpful resources available on the Internet. I highly recommend FEMA’s Ready.gov site, as well as our local Capitol Region Councils of Government’s (CRCOG’s) Get Ready Capital Region site. Both offer a complete list of items one should have in their disaster kit. I will list the essential components below and share some of my thought. Like many other things in our lives, building a disaster kit continues to be a work in progress; frequently making additions to the disaster kit, and replace supplies that have become outdated.

My approach has always been somewhat relaxed taking most things in stride, doing what I can, when I can. Likewise, I have never gone hard-core, nor, am I going to prepare for Armageddon. Rather, I try to focus on preparing for what makes sense, and I hope you will do the same – for yourself, and for your family! For those of you who are interested in learning more about what components make up a functional, and perhaps, life-saving disaster kit, please read on… Being prepared is empowering, and it may actually help you sleep better knowing that you have made arrangements for you and your family – you will not have to depend on the kindness of others in order to meet your most basic needs – in the unfortunate event of a disaster!

Over the past couple of years, Connecticut has had its share of natural disasters. During most of these, services that we take for granted on a daily basis – electricity, heating, cooling, running water, phones, and even the Internet – were unavailable. This is why we need to be self-sufficient for at least three to five days. A great list from “Get Ready Capital Region” has an excellent PDF file you can download and print out. However, for those of you who want to get started immediately, below is a list of essential items that every basic emergency kit should include:

Water: Each individual should have (1) gallon of water per day. So, for a family of 4, acquiring and storing 20 gallons of water would provide plenty of this life-sustaining resource for about 5 days. I know this seems like an awful lot of water, but it really is the minimum a family should have on hand in case of a true disaster. You can watch for sales, and purchase a few gallons at a time, until you have what you need – without going broke in the process.

Nutrition: It’s estimated that an adult needs about 2,000 calories per day. Common sense would suggest that you try to stock up on non‐perishable food; keeping it simple is the key!  This can include meals ready to eat (MRE’s), cereal (granola) bars, canned or foiled foods (sounds odd), trail mix, etc. All you need to do is walk up and down the aisle in your favorite grocery store, and it’s all there for the picking. The one caveat being that you should stock up on foods that are healthy and easily prepared without a stove or microwave oven! If you have any medical conditions that require a specific diet, you may want to take a little extra time to read the labels on the various products you are buying to make sure you would be able to eat them, if you had to. Diabetes, for instance, doesn’t get turned off when the lights go out.

Kitchen Gadgets: A manual can opener and other cooking supplies can prove useful when you have lost power! The last thing you want to do is cut your finger off trying to pry the top off of something you want to eat.  I would also suggest keeping some disposable plates, utensils, hand sanitizer, wipes, and extra garbage bags on hand. The maid won’t be coming and your dishwasher won’t be working!

Communication and Information: Every kit should have at least one battery‐powered or hand‐cranked radio! For most of us, we’ve already got one in the beach bag. If not, they are easily found in most stores. If you are planning on buying a new one, I would suggest looking for one that has the hand crank power, and more importantly, one with NOAA Weather Radio. Remember, being able to receive warning messages and response information is critical!

One of my favorite topics on this list is cell phones! If you own one, great, if not, it may be time to join the 21st century and invest in one. Other portable communication devices such as iPads, mobile hotspots, and laptops are also worthwhile if it falls within your budget. My personal opinion is that owning a mobile hotspot is an invaluable investment. You will make many friends, and 5 to 10 individuals can assess the Internet at a time when many can’t. As a BONUS, your kids will love you, and it will keep them very busy! Lastly, look for an old style (landline) phone; the one that actually tethers you to one room. Often, even without power, the phone lines are still operational!! It will, of course, be essential that you invest in some solar chargers, inverters, or some form of alternate charging system- you are going to need it, and it will be a great excuse to spend some quiet time alone in your car – just remember to back the car out of the garage and roll the windows down!

Sleeping and Warmth: Having extra blankets, pillows, and if possible, sleeping bags are all important parts of your kit. Besides keeping warm at home when there is no heat, there is a possibility that you may have to evacuate to a shelter, in which case, it’s always best to bring your own bedding.

Clothing: Try to keep at least one full change of seasonally‐appropriate clothing, including shoes and outerwear – for each member of your family – in or near your kit.

Lighting: Go out and get some flashlights and batteries! While you are at it, buy a few more, and stockpile those batteries. Keep a few in your kit and some strategically placed around your home. Take your time with this, no need to spend big bucks all at one; look around, you can scoop them up when they are on sale. Another excellent lighting source are glow sticks; cheap and safe. Just don’t let anyone chew on them! And, NO! Do not use candles; the risks of a potential fire far outweigh any benefit! Remember, your local fire department is already very busy, and you could lose everything waiting for them to come to your rescue.

First Aid Kits and Medications: A store‐bought first‐aid kit or a custom-made one you create will do. Either way, make sure it contains any medical supplies you regularly use, based upon your family’s medical history/conditions. Also, it is a good idea to leave a note taped to the top of your kit reminding you to grab any medications normally taken daily, with you, should you have to quickly evacuate! Having your prescription medications, as well as any over-the-counter medications you may use regularly, available during a disaster is critical. Many times, we know well in advance that a potential weather event is coming. For instance, we knew a week in advance about the last blizzard that hit us. The time to call your physician or pharmacist to obtain refills of all medications is when the warnings or alerts are first publicized. This way, you will be sure that you have enough medication to last until life returns to normal! It is a very good idea to check the expiration dates each time you change the batteries in your home’s smoke detectors – typically, each spring and fall. If anyone in your family has severe allergies, be sure to keep spare allergy medications, such as an EpiPen, in your kit because you may not be able to prevent an exposure if you are staying in a shelter, for example.

Your first aid kit is an excellent place to keep a neatly printed or typed list of each family member’s name, medical history, medications, food and drug allergies, as well as other important medical information – including the names and phone numbers of your family’s physicians and pharmacy. This same information will also be needed when you put together your family’s emergency plan, which will be discussed in a future post.

Basic Tools and Supplies: A small tool kit that includes a screwdriver, hammer, pliers, work gloves, and an adjustable wrench is a good start. However, don’t stop there, because investing in a good knife and or a multi-tool knife is also a very good idea. These tools are invaluable, and if you have ever seen MacGyver, or Bear Grylls, they frequently used these tools to get themselves out of many jams. And no, I am not diving off the deep end, just trying to emphasize the usefulness of a multi-tool! Depending on your utilities, investing in a utilities tool to turn off utilities is not a bad idea, either. FEMA’s Ready.gov has a few examples of these tools, and instructions regarding their use. Lastly, have some duct tape, bungee cords and rope on hand in case you need to make any temporary repairs to your property.

Hygiene: Toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, moist towelettes, bath towels, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, sunscreen, comb/brush, and waterless hand sanitizer are all among those items that are easily overlooked – right up to the minute you need them.

Extra House and Car Keys: Having an extra set of keys is worth the investment! I know some newer car keys can be a bit pricy, but if you can afford it, buy one. Once you have an extra set, either put it in your kit, or keep it in a specific location where everyone knows where to look in a hurry. Remember, disasters can cause chaos, which leads to confusion; keys are easily lost or misplaced.

Cash: CASH is KING. During a disaster, ATM’s may not be assessable, and banks may be closed. How much you keep on hand is really up to you; just make sure you think it through.

There you have it, a basic disaster kit! Yes, I did add that little word, “basic.” Meaning that list of items we just reviewed is not all-inclusive. There are a plethora of other items you may want to add to your disaster kit. Whatever those items may be, remember this, the important thing is that as long as your kit meets you and your family’s needs during a disaster, and you can go without any outside help for a few days, you will thrive and survive!

A great way to assess if your disaster kit meets you and your family’s needs is to test it. How you ask? Well, I can vividly recall over the last couple of years a few hurricanes, and a blizzard. Think back and recall how you and your family felt – was there anything that you would have chanced, or done differently (other then making plans to be in Florida that week)? What did you learn from those miserable experiences – write down your answers, and see if your newly assembled disaster kit eliminates some of those, “I wish I had….” thoughts. Needless to say, if you and your family’s basic needs are not meet, you now have an opportunity to add whatever that item is to your disaster kit. Likewise, if you believe your disaster kit is complete, then you have met your responsibility, congratulations! You and your family are now better prepared, safer, more resilient. In some ways, by accepting this responsibility and building your disaster kit, you have made your community a bit safer too!

In the coming weeks, I’ll focus on awareness, as well as hazards, and vulnerabilities so we can better understand what our individual risks are!  – Jay

Are you aware? Do you have a plan? Are you prepared for the next disaster?

Tags

, ,

I would like to start off by introducing myself to you. My name is Jay Gonzalez; I reside in South Windsor with my wife and daughter. I am a career firefighter, a regional emergency manager duty officer, and a student focusing on emergency and disaster management. The main purpose of this blog is to provide the residents of South Windsor with information pertaining to community awareness and preparedness for disasters.

In the coming weeks, I will be developing a template for a family disaster plan that you’ll be able to download. In addition, I will list some of the necessary equipment, tools, food, water, and other essentials you should put in an emergency kit for you, and your family. I will also be posting safety tips, and other information that may be helpful to you, your family, and your business for use before, during and after a disaster.

One of the best ways for a family to cope with a disaster is preparing in advance. As a community, we need to share the responsibility of being prepared, rather than assuming that others are going to take care of us – of everything. Everyone needs to be a part of the solution.  A few basic preparations can go a long way to ensuring your own well-being and that of your loved ones. If accepting the notion of a shared responsibility in preparedness isn’t enough to motivate you, just think back to any of our many recent disasters in Connecticut.

FEMA advises that each individual and family should understand that after a disaster, help might not come for at least 72 hours (3 days). Still, others have suggested 120 hours (5 days). Basic services such as water, gas, electricity, and telephones may even be cut off. Local officials, fire departments, law-enforcement, EMS, and other relief workers will be doing their level best to respond after a disaster. However, the reality is that they may not be able to reach everyone right away. One only needs to look back a couple of weeks ago to realize this. Knowing what to do before, during, and after a disaster is not only the best protection you can have, but it’s also your responsibility!

One way to be aware is to visit the Capital Region Council of Government’s web site at Be Aware, Plan, Prepare. This website offers an abundance of resources, and information on emergency preparedness, as well as the different hazards that face us living here, in Connecticut. If you haven’t visited this website, I would highly suggest that you check it out. The information posted there is really is worthwhile!

In the coming weeks, I look forward to hearing from you; what are your thoughts and questions? I will make every effort to respond to you, with the hope of making the citizens of South Windsor more informed and better prepared. Please feel free to post your questions or suggestions for any topics you would like discussed.

Jay