What You Can Do to Prepare
The devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, left many Americans concerned about the possibility of future incidents in the United States and their potential impact. Although the likelihood of such an attack occurring in Rancho Palos Verdes is very low due to our lack of high-profile targets, the potential exists in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. Despite the continuing state of uncertainty, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected and reduce the stress that you may feel now and in the event that another domestic attack occurs in the future. While there are many sources of information about the threat of terrorism and emergency preparedness, the American Red Cross provides one of the best sources for individuals and families.
What Could Happen
As we learned from the events of September 11, 2001, the following things can happen after a terrorist attack:
- There can be significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings and the infrastructure. So employers need up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have and on how to contact your designated beneficiaries.
- Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event's criminal nature.
- Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
- Extensive media coverage, strong public fear, and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
- Workplaces and schools may be closed and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
- You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
- Clean up may take many months.
Where to Start
Finding out what can happen is the first step. Once you have determined the events possible and their potential in your community, it is important that you discuss them with your family or household and develop a disaster plan together.
1. Create an Emergency Communications Plan
Choose an out-of-town contact your family or household will call or email to check on each other should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact. Make sure every household member has that contact's, and each others', email addresses and telephone numbers (home, work, pager, and cell). Leave these contact numbers at your children's schools, if you have children, and at your workplace. Your family should know that if telephones are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try email. Many people flood the telephone lines when emergencies happen but email can sometimes get through when calls don't.
2. Establish a 'Safe Room' & a Meeting Place Away from Home
Select a safe room in your home where everyone can gather. The best choice is an interior room above ground with few windows and doors.
Having a predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion should your home be affected or the area evacuated. You may even want to make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include any pets in these plans, since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.
3. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
All of us should be able to survive comfortably on our own for at least a 3-day period (10 days is optimal). That's the amount of time you may need to remain in your home until the danger from a biological, chemical or radiological attack has passed. The basics you will need are:
- A battery-powered radio
- A change of clothes for each family member
- A first-aid kit
- A flashlight
- A gallon of water per person per day should be enough
- Canned and dried foods are easy to store and prepare
- Duct tape and heavy-duty plastic garbage bags that can be used to seal windows and doors
- Extra batteries
- Food and water
- Prescription medicines
- Sleeping bags or blankets
- Toilet articles
If you are asked to "shelter in place" or need to evacuate your home, having these essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable. Prepare a disaster supplies kit in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or small plastic trash can. It is also a good idea to include some cash and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports, and licenses) in your kit. Make sure all household members know where the kit is kept. You should also consider bringing a disaster supply kit to work or leaving one in your car. Copies of essential documents-like powers of attorney, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, life insurance beneficiary designations and a copy of your will should also be kept in a safe location outside your home. A safe deposit box or the home of a friend or family member who lives out of town is a good choice.
4. Check the School Emergency Plan of any School-Age Children
You need to know if they will keep children at school until a parent or designated adult can pick them up or send them home on their own. Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pickup. And, ask what type of authorization the school may require to release a child to someone you designate if you are not able to pick up your child. During times of emergency, the school telephones may be overwhelmed with calls.
5. Learn First-Aid
Another useful preparation includes learning some basic first-aid. To enroll in first aid and CPR course, contact your local American Red Cross chapter. In an emergency situation, you need to tend to your own well being first and then consider first aid for others immediately around you, including possibly assisting injured people to evacuate a building, if necessary.
If Disaster Strikes
- Remain calm and be patient.
- Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.
- Follow the advice of county and local emergency officials
- If the disaster occurs near you, check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
- As emergency services will likely be overwhelmed, only call 911 about life-threatening emergencies.
- If the disaster occurs near your home while you are there, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. Check for fires, fire hazards, and other household hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
- Shut off any other damaged utilities.
- Confine or secure your pets.
- Call your family contact — do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
- Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.
Listen to Emergency Authorities
County and local authorities will provide you with the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. However, please keep in mind that raw, unedited footage of terrorism events and people's reactions to those events can be very upsetting, especially to children. It is inadvisable to allow children to watch television news reports about such events, especially if the news reports show images over and over again about the same incident. Young children do not realize that it is repeated video footage and think the event is happening again and again. Adults may also need to give themselves a break from watching disturbing footage. You may want to make some arrangements to take turns listening to the news with other adult members of your household.
If the county or local authorities ask you to leave your home, they have a good reason to make this request, and you should heed the advice immediately. Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of emergency officials and keep these simple tips in mind:
- Lock your home.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Take your disaster supplies kit.
- Take your pets with you. Do not leave them behind. Because pets are not permitted in public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative's or friend's home, or find a pet-friendly hotel.
- Use travel routes specified by emergency authorities. Don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
If you're sure you have time:
- Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
- Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so. Leave natural gas service on unless local officials advise you otherwise. You may need gas for heating and cooking, and only a professional can restore gas service in your home once it's been turned off. In a disaster situation, it could take weeks for a professional to respond.
If you are advised by county or local officials to "shelter in place," what they mean is for you to remain inside your home or office and protect yourself there. Close and lock all windows and exterior doors. Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems. Close the fireplace damper. Get your disaster supplies kit, and make sure the radio is working. Go to your "safe room" that's above ground level.
In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed. Using duct tape, seal all cracks around the door, windows and any vents into the room. Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. County or local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.
Biological, Chemical & Radiological Agents
People who may have come into contact with a biological, chemical or radiological agent may need to go through a decontamination procedure and receive medical attention.
American Red Cross Greater Long Beach Chapter
3150 East 29th Street
Long Beach, CA 90806