Monday, October 27, 2008

50 Ways to Prepare for Sheltering in Place

Sheltering in place, or battening down the hatches and staying in your home for a period of time, is a very real possibility. Are you ready? While the term 'sheltering in place' is most often used in relation to chemical attacks, in our area, flooding, road wash outs, bridge wash outs, and snow storms tend to happen often enough and in a wide enough area that it is pretty much guaranteed that everyone will get to spend some time holed up (sheltering in place) in their homes. Also, in a major disaster such as a pandemic flu outbreak or civil unrest (coup attempts, rioting, etc), one of the safest places you can be is in your home (and you'll probably be there for a while). Here's how to be prepared should you need to stay at home for a week or longer:
  1. Clean and repair your home. You want it to be a welcoming, sheltering place where you want to be not a messy prison where you don't want to be.
  2. Have plenty of cash on hand. You may be able to walk to a local store but not get to an ATM (or they may not be in service).
  3. Have cash in the bank (and a way to use it to electronically pay your bills if needed).
  4. Check your food stocks. Make sure you have enough to feed the family for a minimum of a month should you not be able to leave your home for that period of time.
  5. Have board games and books on hand. If the electricity goes out and you have to stay home, the kids can get quite bored, quite quickly.
  6. Have an alternate source of water (stored, rain barrel, etc) in case your water becomes contaminated or shut off.
  7. Store plenty of blankets and warm clothing in case the heat goes out (for some reason, disasters tend to happen during the worst weather.
  8. Do you have spare fuel stored? Once given the all clear to leave your home, local gas stations may no be up and running. With spare fuel on hand you can fuel your vehicles yourself. Fuel is also necessary for your generator if you have one.

  9. Keep large poster boards, markers, and duct tape on hand. You can use these items to print a message and post in in your window (ie: OK, need help, need food, etc).

  10. Try to have your doctor prescribe three months of prescription medications as a time for you and other family members so that you will have plenty on hand.

  11. Keep plastic sheeting and duct tape on hand in case you need to create a sealed room.

  12. Have a portable camp toilet (or the means to make one--bucket, plastic bags) in case the facilities don't work.

  13. Make your home as secure as possible--this can be anything from a full-scale security system, to solid core doors with bolt locks.

  14. An alternate source of power, such as a solar charger or generator, can be really nice to have if the power is out for an extended period of time.

  15. Think disposables--disposable plates and utensils, disposable diapers, paper towels--during a disaster you may not be able to do laundry or wash the dishes without boiling water so even if you don't usually use disposable items they will come in mighty handy.

  16. Check out your methods of communications. A land line phone (which plugs into the wall but not the electricity) is good to have on hand. A cell is good (as well as a way to charge it without electricity such as through a wind up radio). A HAM radio is another valuable communications tool, as is the shorter distance walkie talkies.

  17. Make sure you have lots of batteries on hand of all sizes (D, C, AA, AAA, 9v).

  18. Make sure you have lots of flashlights on hand--one for each room.

  19. Depending on your inclination, consider what types of weapons you may need--everything from firearms to baseball bats to Mace.

  20. PPEs for everyone in the home may be necessary. Face masks, disposable clothing, gloves, booties, duct tape...the whole nine yards.
  21. Have some spray paint on hand (black and fluorescent are good colors) for posting messages that can be seen from the air. This is also useful if you conduct door to door searches in your neighborhood.
  22. A camp stove with fuel is great to have if your stove isn't working. Hot food is often more comforting (both physically and psychologically) than cold food.
  23. Keep a box of treats on hand. It can get pretty gloomy if you need to hunker down for an extended period of time. Unusual treats can brighten people's day.
  24. Have plenty of medical supplies on hand and the knowledge to use them. Accidents and illnesses happen all the time (and quite often at the worst possible time) so be able to take care of as many of these types of problems as possible in case medical care is far away or unavailable.
  25. Keep the items you may need to secure you home on hand. You may be sheltering in place when a hurricane is set to strike. Do you have the plywood and nails needed to board up your home?
  26. Keep your battery/wind up radio, or if the electricity is available, your TV, on at all times so you will know what's going on.
  27. Have a pet plan. Depending on the situation, your pets may need to be indoors with you (in the event of a CBRNE disaster) or they may be able to be outside but confined to your yard. In either case, you will need to have food and medications stored for them as well. Depending on the length of the disaster, you may need to protect them from others as when people are starving, dogs can look pretty tasty and they are fairly easy to catch if you let them roam around.
  28. Unlike a natural disaster where you may not be able to leave your immediate area for a bit, a CBRNE disaster will usually require an immediate shut down of your HVAC system, closing all windows, closing the fireplace damper, etc. Be prepared to do this immediately.
  29. Know where your local community shelters are. If you can not stay in your home, you will need to grab your BOB and get to a shelter at another location. Know where these shelters are and how to get there.
  30. Unless it is an emergency, don't use your phone. This ties up the lines for people who are calling for emergency help.
  31. Know what the warnings are in your community and heed them. If you live in a tsunami prone area, know what the tsunami sirens sound like and know if your home is on high enough ground or if you will need to evacuate. If you are on high ground, stay put unless told to leave.
  32. In the event of a volcanic eruption spewing ash or chem/radiological exposure, make sure anyone who was exposed is decontaminated outside of your home before entering. This may include stripping and bagging the exposed clothing, scrubbing off (a hose, soap, brush, and privacy tent will be useful here), then have them put on clean clothes and slippers before entering the home.
  33. Depending on the event, anything received from the outside may need to be cleaned and/or examined prior to allowing it into your home.
  34. Have an escape route. While a tsunami, hurricane, or wildfire may be far enough away that you can shelter in place at your home, sometimes these things can switch directions very quickly. Have an escape route/plan in place and use it if necessary.
  35. Know the laws of your town/city/state. In the event of a pandemic, for example, it may be the law that anyone who does not shelter in place could be subject to arrest...or worse.
  36. Have a plan for your work/business. If everyone is sheltering in place, is there a way to work from home? How would you get paid? If you are a critical emergency worker, how will you get to work?
  37. Know what your kid's school's plan is for sheltering in place. Depending on the type of emergency, kids may be released early but other disasters may necessitate keeping kids locked down at the school and parents won't even be able to pick them up.
  38. Evaluate your home for the locations that will serve as the main room during a disaster. The attic may work during a flood, the basement would be better during a wind storm or tornado.
  39. It's a good idea to keep all of your camping supplies stored together. You can pull out the items and easily use whatever is needed (tent for the back yard if you can't stay in your home, manual can opener, etc).
  40. Have a printed speed dial list on hand. Mine includes home and cell numbers as well as HAM call signs for friends and family members, contact information for employees and clients, and contact information for vital services (gas, power, water, etc). Otherwise, if my cell and computer were not working I wouldn't remember any of this information.
  41. Get creative. Our normal inclination is to run to the store for what we need, call for food delivery from the local Chinese place, or expect emergency service providers to be immediately available. None of these things may happen during a disaster so use your creativity to reuse, recycle, or do without until things get back to normal.
  42. You know what it's like when your broadband service is down for an hour? Multiply this by days on end. If having internet access is critical, look for ways to make this service redundant (ie: broadband, dial up, via an air card, through your cell or sat phone, etc).
  43. After a disaster, evaluate the impact of the disaster. This may include everything from filing an insurance claim to figuring out if you can eat the produce in your garden or if it must be destroyed.
  44. Document what happens to you and your family during a disaster. This may make for: an easier time with an insurance claim, an excellent after action report, a stunning blog, or a best selling book after the fact.
  45. Leave your shelter when the "all clear" is given. This may be an official announcement in the event of a chemical disaster or hurricane, or it may be when the bridge is fixed or the roads are cleared. The idea is not to put yourself in danger by leaving your shelter too soon.
  46. Prepare ahead of time for sheltering in place by learning how to: cook from scratch, wash clothes by hand, create your own security system, learn first aid skills, raise your kids to be the people you wouldn't mind being in 24/7 contact with for a month, etc.
  47. Drill a variety of disaster scenarios ahead of time such as fire drills, earthquake drills, etc. Much like a crew on a carrier, everyone knows that when X happens, each person's immediate response is to do Y. Each person in the home should know exactly what to do during an emergency.
  48. Have a secondary shelter in mind in case you can't shelter at your own home (ie: the home of a family member in another city or state). Don't forget to load up your car with lots of your stored food and water; you'll be a more welcomed guest that way.
  49. If you do find yourself at a community shelter, be as helpful and patient as possible. Everyone will be stressed out and tensions may be high, so being the calming influence in such a situation will be greatly appreciated.
  50. Learn from each disaster. Make a list of things that didn't go so well and make plans to fix what went wrong. During one long power outage we only had home phones that needed to be plugged into the electric outlet. You can bet that right after that disaster, a phone line only phone was added to our emergency stocks.

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