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Hazardous Materials are materials that may be poisons, radioactive materials, flammables, combustibles, or explosives. Some can cause death through breathing, touching, or eating, while the others can result in fires or explosions. Many chemicals involved in a hazardous material emergency may be at the mercy of the winds and weather conditions, which can make them even more dangerous. In the event of a Hazardous Material Disaster or spill:
Keep your radio or television on after you hear of a disaster, but wait until you know you have to evacuate to leave. Then plan to use the suggested evacuation route given by the authorities.
When told to leave, evacuate immediately. This may take time if you have infants, elderly, or family members with disabilities, so have them ready.
Always make your movements upwind or uphill from the disaster area.
Cover your mouth and nose with a rag if possible to avoid breathing vapors or mists.
Do not touch any liquids, airborne mists, or puddles of unknown content.
Do not attempt to treat the injured until you know what the hazardous material is. Just touching them may bring danger.
Do not return to your home until your emergency response folks have given the all clear. They are the experts at cleanup and it may be just a few hours or it could be weeks.
Hurricanes - According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “hurricanes are products of the tropical ocean and atmosphere. Powered by heat from the sea, they are steered erratically by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerly winds, as well as by their own energy. As they move ashore, they bring with them a storm surge of ocean water along the coastline, high winds, tornadoes, torrential rains, and flooding.”
We average 6 hurricanes a year, of which 5 will strike the United States about every 3 years or so. Two of these storms are usually major hurricanes, with winds above 111 miles an hour, which places them in a category 3 listing. However, the biggest killer with hurricanes is storm surge, where water is thrown to shore by strong hurricane winds. “Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level to heights impacting roads, homes and other critical infrastructure. In addition, wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide,” says the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Hurricanes are dangerous, so what can you do to prepare for one?
Protect you home by placing 5/8 inch plywood (marine) over your windows. Be sure to cut to fit.
Have the roof securely fastened to the frame by using clips or straps.
Trim long or rotted limbs from trees.
Clean all gutters and drains.
Pick up any loose objects around your home that could turn into missiles during high winds.
Prepare and depending on the warning given, get ready to evacuate.
If a hurricane warning is given, listen to television and radio often. Keep current of what is going on with the storm at all times. Prepare for the storm as listed above and turn your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. If power goes out, the frozen foods will last longer if frozen solid. Do not turn off all utilities, until told to do so, and you'll likely hear this information from the news media (TV or radio). However, if you have a propane tank turn it off as soon as the storm approaches the coast. As in all natural disasters, do not use your phone unless it's an emergency and store water in any containers you may have.
Evacuate when told to do so and do it quickly. Follow evacuation routes and directions from authorities, even if you disagree. Everyone must follow directions for the evacuation to go smoothly.
Never stay in a mobile home, trailer or camper during a hurricane. Seek shelter in a strong building or leave the area, because mobile homes, trailers and campers will be destroyed.
In a highrise building, evacuate the building immediately. Find shelter in a low level facility. Hurricane winds carry more force and destructive power at higher elevations.
Evacuate if you feel unsafe.
Evacuate if your home is in low lands or near the beach.
If you cannot evacuate
Do not go outside. Remain indoors and avoid windows. Move to the center of the home.
Close all interior doors and lock them. Once locked, brace doors with heavy furniture if possible.
Close all blinds and curtains to reduce injury from flying glass during the storm.
Move to a center room or hallway at the lowest level. A basement offers the best protection.
Lie on the floor, under something strongly made, if you can do so.
If you hear a lull during the storm, it may be the eye of the hurricane passing overhead and not the end of the storm. If it's the eye of the storm, high winds will soon start again.
Following a hurricane
Administer first aid to the injured. Learn basic first aid from the American Red Cross or other organization now, before you need it. Additional information of first aid is given later in this book.
Maintain your health. Immediately following a hurricane you'll be exhausted and you'll need to rest. After resting, think about your current situation and what needs to be done to survive. Avoid panic, because it will kill you. Others have survived hurricanes so can you. Rest, think, plan, and avoid panic.
Drink only safe water. Safe water is bottled water or water treated with bleach.
Dress properly to survive and this is covered in a later chapter.
Stay clean and maintain proper hygiene. Keep clothing clean, wash your hands frequently, and treat all injuries immediately.
Safety Concerns following a hurricane
Bad Water – Storm surge will most likely contaminate most sources of clean drinking water outside the home. Use only water you know that is safe to drink or treat it.
There will be gas and water leaks or broken lines. Turn them off if necessary at the main switch.
Your home and area may be filled with debris and broken glass. Wear footwear at all times and use gloves if you have them.
Watch for downed power lines or other electrical hazards outside your home. Additionally, your home may have exposed wiring or other electrical hazards inside, so check for them as soon as you can following the end of the storm. Turn your electricity off at the main breaker if necessary.
Floors will be wet and perhaps even flooded, so use caution when moving over them. Falls can cause serious injury, especially if your floor is littered with debris.
There may be chemical spills or toxic materials in the water around you. Avoid entering the water surrounding your home.
Fires may break out, so keep a sharp eye open for smoke. Most of these fires may be the result of broken electrical wiring.
Avoid dead animals and human remains.
Terrorist Attack - With the threat of a terrorist act happening in American being very real today, it is wise to prepare. When acts of terror occur, they usually happen when we expect them least. This surprise comes from the fact that as Americans we have lived pretty safe lives in the past and also because terrorist's plan it that way for maximum effect. The less people suspect an act of violence, the more damaging the results. It makes each of us feel unsafe.
The goals of terrorism are to create fear, get publicity, and to show people that their government cannot protect them from attacks. No government can protect all of it's citizens from attacks all the time, so it pays for us to be alert. Watch for unusual behaviors in people, do not accept packages you are not expecting, and report anything that is suspicious to authorities. Terrorists may use explosives, chemical or biological agents, nuclear weapons, or even a radiological dispersion device (dirty bombs) to create their destruction. The weapons available to terrorist are endless and they use what they wish to create fear. We cannot prevent all attacks, but by being alert we can prevent a great number of them through reporting.
I believe most professionals who deal with terrorism, will tell us that it is only a matter of time before we are subjected to more attacks. An attack could effect our water supply, our fresh foods, and even the air we breathe. As the attack on New York demonstrated, terrorists have vivid imaginations. An attack could consist of any conceivable weapon at any location.
The most likely weapons terrorist's will use are:
Explosives – May detonate traditional explosives of various sizes and hope for maximum casualties from the blast.
Chemical Biological – Can be dispensed as an aerosol to spread a fine mist in airways. Or, could contaminate water and food through the use of pathological organisms or toxins. Last, they could send people infected with smallpox, plague, or Lassa virus to a target area.
Nuclear Weapons – Not likely at this time, but possible. Nuclear weapons would cause high casualties and fallout might be devastating for survivors of the blast.
Radiological Dispersion Device (Dirty Nuke) – This is an explosive device that is a mixture of nuclear and conventional weapons. Terrorists hope if the blast doesn't kill a great number fallout might.
Unknown devices – Terrorists, as 9/11 showed, have imaginations and it is impossible to list any and all devices they may use.
So, just what can we do to prepare our homes and loved ones if something should happen? Let's look at each of the potential threats.
Explosives – Traditional explosive are cheap, readily available to all terrorists, and many can be made using common household and farm chemicals. They're usually placed in high traffic areas were the initial explosion will kill and injure the greatest numbers. Often a building is bombed and when the survivors rush from the building in panic, a second explosive device may detonate, killing and injuring more. This secondary device is sometimes delayed for many long minutes (can be timer controlled or detonated on command) and have been placed in parking lots or other emergency assembly points.
Prevention – There are few, except watching for unusual behavior or actions, and reporting it immediately. If an explosion occurs, follow any and all directions given by the police, as many have been trained in terrorism.
Chemical or Biological – Attacks could come in the form of aerosols, using a fine mist, to spread disease or toxic chemicals. These aerosols could be released in the open air, on buses or planes, or perhaps in any facility that offers a great number of targets to the terrorist's. It could also involve the contamination of water or food supplies through the use of toxins or pathological organisms. We know terrorist's will use humans to carry bombs, so it's possible those infected with smallpox, plague, Lassa virus, or other illness or diseases could be sent to specific areas to infect the general public. Unlike explosive devices, the spread of disease would take more time and might not gain the instant publicity terrorist's seek.
Prevention – This is a difficult attack to prevent, because we'll not likely realize what is happening until already exposed to the agent. Winds and precipitation could affect the success of the mists outdoors, both could cause the mist to dissipate somewhat, but it depends on the concentration of the agent and where used. It's important to keep your shot record up to date and be aware of mists or unusual smells. In many cases the agent may be odorless, so a sense of smell will not help, and the mist may not be noticed in the air. Illnesses, such as plague, smallpox and others may not be quickly identified as an attack until sometime long after the initial outbreak. However, all infectious diseases are tracked and investigated by medical authorities, so eventually it would become known.
Nuclear Attacks – The most import aspects of the detonation of a nuclear device are distance from the explosion, shielding from the blast (and fallout), and time from the burst. The initial blast and bomb size must be considered in terms of height above the ground, because height of detonation effects the blast area, as well as the ground surface below the bursting point. The blast will have greater effect on flat lands than in rolling hills or mountainous terrain. Weather conditions, such as wind (direction and speed) and rain (could wash some of the fallout from the air) will effect the amount/direction of fallout.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests we:
Take cover under something and in the lowest level of our homes.
Do not look at the blast or mushroom cloud – this can cause eye injury or blindness.
If outdoors, get behind something solid if possible.
If you cannot get behind something, then lie flat on the ground.
It may take 30 seconds or longer for the blast to reach you.
If you can, turn on a radio or television as soon as possible and follow the instructions given.
If your structure survives the blast, use duct tape to cover all closed windows and doors. Turn off your heating and air conditioning unit. Cover all holes in the home to include the vent on your dryer. Make the home airtight if you can.
Prevention – Let's be honest here, shy of discovering the terrorist's in the act of preparing or carrying out an attack, there isn't much we can do. A great deal depends on the size of the device and where it explodes. However, seal your home, listen to the media to keep updated on procedures, and follow all directives.
Radiological Dispersion Devices (RDD) – To me, this a poor man's nuclear bomb, because it's a “dirty bomb,” which means it's made of conventional explosives and has some nuclear components. It's designed to explode and then disperse fallout. In the event you are close to one after it detonates, turn off heating and air conditioning systems, use duct tape to seal all closed windows, doors and dryer vents. Also go to the basement or center of the home for safety. The key once again is distance, shielding, and time.
Prevention – There will likely be little or no warning, so prevention is difficult, unless we catch them planting or moving the device. Follow the same suggestions as with the nuclear attack.
So, start getting ready now, not tomorrow. Remember what I said above, an attack will most likely happen when you least suspect it. Take a look around your house. You have many things you can use for emergencies on hand right now.
A chemical biological attack on your primary water source may prevent you from being able to use it, so you may have to use water from ponds, lakes, or streams, except they may not be safe for drinking either. A great deal depends on the specific agent released, how much of the agent, and weather conditions.
There are many different types of water filters available and at various costs, but filtering systems will not protect you from nuclear fallout or some types of chemical agents. If you believe you have sustained an attack in one of those two categories, chemical biological or nuclear, use stored or packaged (canned, bottled, or in bags) water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests boiling water to kill most pathological organisms and toxins, but stored water is the safest way to go in my opinion.
Packaged water is sold in different quantities. I have seen water sold in pouches, plastic two liter bottles, and in cans. The size of the container may vary, but most survival pouches or cans are around ten to twelve ounces. I recommend everyone have some package water (gallon size) placed in storage as a precaution. Water is relatively inexpensive, less than a dollar a gallon, and it could become your only source of clean, safe, water. Once again, you need to evaluate the number of people and their water needs.
In your inventory sheet for your survival items list what you think are the bare necessities. Consider plastic or normal ceramic plates (not paper), eating utensils, pots, pans, drinking glasses, cups, and any other special items you may want. I suggest these items because in today's society many people live off of paper plates and the microwave. Remember to include a can opener, or you will have to discover an alternate method of opening and most are messy. Many of the item's you may need can be taken from your normal day-to-day utensils, so you will not have to purchase them. This will also keep your cost down. Nonetheless, list what you have on hand.
If you are without a stove, you may have to cook outside, if it is safe to do so. I would never cook indoors with an open flame due to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. I just don't feel it is worth the risk. Before you make a fire outside, check your home for gas leaks. Make sure you use good fire safety sense and control your fire.
I also suggest you store a portable toilet with your survival items. No, it is not really needed, but many men, women and children, just do not like alternate methods. You can buy a portable camping toilet, or go back in history and make a honey bucket. A honey bucket is a large bucket used to collect human waste. It can be a mop bucket, or an empty coffee can. Regardless of which choice you make, sooner or later, someone will be forced to empty the thing, which is why I recommend the use of a heavy-duty trash bag for a liner. Do not attempt to pick the bag up and carry it outside, because the bag may have a hole in it or you may puncture the bag before you get out of the building. Take the whole toilet, or honey bucket, and once outdoors, remove the liner to empty it.
You can buy biodegradable toilet tissue, sanitizing chemicals, and other accessories as you feel the need. Remember, a magazine or newspaper can do the same job as tissue. Yes, I am as concerned about nature as the next person, perhaps more so, but we are talking about survival here and biodegradable toilet tissue is a luxury. If you centralize your dumping spot, it will be easier to clean up your waste once the emergency is over.
Here is a list of additional miscellaneous items I think would be helpful.
A portable radio with extra batteries, or a Solar, or wind-up powered one.
Large plastic storage containers for drinking water.
Good quality blankets and sleeping bags (make sure they are adequate for your temperature zone).
Any prescription medications your family may need. Make sure you check the expiration dates. Talk to your doctor about special needs you may have.
A good professional type first aid kit, with booklet or manual. You may be the only medical help available in an emergency.
A good survival manual or book . I recommend my book, “Simple Survival, A Family Outdoors Guide,” published by Dancing Fox Publishing or one from our service branches. The British SAS survival book is excellent and well written. Videos are great too, but they are of no use if you are without power.
A magnesium fire starter, along with some type of tinder (lint from the dryer works well).
Several boxes of waterproof matches and a lighter.
A small waterproof match container that can be carried in a pocket. This could come in handy if you have to leave the survival area looking for food or water.
Any special needs items you or your family may have in an emergency (medication or diet concerns).
The lists of items I have suggested in this section are just suggestions. In no way am I suggesting this list is complete for any and all terrorist attack situations. I want you to think about what you need. While each individual is different and unique, so is each family and survival situation. Keep in mind; you may have to improvise to survive.
In today's uncertain world, we are susceptible to terrorists acts from a single person or large groups. We face risks of the types of attacks history has never seen before. Our choice is simple, we can live in fear and cringe each time the power goes off, or we can be prepared. We can prepare by storing what we will need and preparing our minds on how we will survive. Once the emergency hits, while others are attempting to buy what they need in crowded stores, if they can find one open, we will be comforted in knowing we have what it takes to survive.
Nuclear Power Plants – Treat this type of disaster as you would a nuclear attack and remember distance, shielding, and time. The only difference may be the lack of an explosion and blast. The fallout will still be in the air, even though you cannot see it, and treat it as a serious attack. Just because you cannot see it does not make it unreal or less of a threat.
Some content from FEMA.