(TNS) - The Blizzard of '78, Hurricane Sandy, the flooding of Hurricane Harvey, disasters can be a fact of life and it never hurts to prepare.
Both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) offer fantastic, definitive advice on how to prepare and survive in situations where you might be stranded, cold, and possibly without drinkable water.
Want the full scoop? Be sure to check out FEMA's "Are Your Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness."
Here are some major takeaways and tips from the guide you can use to help you and your family prepare:
1: Get informed, stay informed, and stick to your plan
The cliché is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true in the case of a disaster.
The federal government has partnered with cell service providers to issue Wireless Emergency Alerts. A majority of carriers provide the service so be sure you particular phone is set to receive them.
Additionally, many local communities also offer similar services - such as CodeRED - to alert residents of emergencies or even general information about road closures and detours. Be sure to check with your city hall or public safety departments to see if they offer such a service and how to sign up.
Finally, you and anyone else you live with or care for should create an emergency response plan. Do you all have a common meeting point? Have you learned what local evacuation routes and sites might be? Does everyone know where the supplies and medicines are? It's all fairly obvious to consider when you're safe, but strong pre-planning will help prevent panic.
2: Build and maintain a "supply bag" or two
New Englanders' joke about turning on one another for "milk and bread" at the local Market Basket before a snowstorm, but those perishables aren't what you should be stocking up on in case you're stuck in the house.
Everyone should consider building their own "supply bag" to help survive at least three days without electricity, running water, or heat.
Make sure you store your bag somewhere that's accessible, but perhaps not immediately obvious, for you and others in your household. Additionally, consider keeping a smaller bag for surviving 24 hours in your vehicle, which can be useful whether you're stranded at work or on the freeway.
Water, non-perishable food, and several layers of clothing are important, but consider other items such as radios, small amounts of required medications, and photocopies of important records.
Here in New England, survival against the cold is also important to consider. Make sure you have at least one change of warm clothes and a sturdy set of shoes per person. See MEMA's website for a complete checklist: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/build-an-emergency-kit.
3: Stay-safely-out of the cold
Here in New England, the cold would likely kill you during a major winter disaster long before your run out of water or food supplies. Worse yet, it might not even be the chill itself that does you in - but rather how you attempt to stay warm.
Carbon monoxide is an incredibly dangerous possibility in both your home and car. Keep the vents around your home for your dryer, stove, furnace or fireplace clear. If you're stuck inside your car while on the road, run your engine and heater every 10 minutes every hour or so to keep warm but make sure you keep a window open slightly for ventilation. You should also clear snow from the exhaust pipe if you're expecting to remain stationary for the next several hours.
As always, watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia, especially among seniors, children and frail individuals.
If the storm appears to be winding down and you're considering a trip outside to shovel, make sure you avoid overexertion. FEMA states heart attacks are a major cause of death in the winter, frequently brought about by exhaustion while shoveling.
4: Don't lose your humanity
Above any other concern, be certain to remain a good neighbor. As noted in our first tip, consider discussing emergency plans with your friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
Group preparations can help in times of disaster, especially for sharing supplies and information.
You should especially keep an eye on your elderly or frail neighbors. Consider helping out by shoveling their hydrants or driveways if they're unable to do so.
Finally, having a network of support also keeps eyes in the back of your head. Keep your eyes open for suspicious characters who may attempt to use the chaos of a disaster for looting or other possible criminal actions.
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