Many of us don’t think about our emergency preparations until there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world. Besides earthquakes, which we are all aware can occur at any time, we can experience power outages during even mild rainstorms. A major earthquake could leave us without electricity for days at a time. Once a year, it is a smart idea to make sure your emergency kits are up to date.
It is important to have backup lighting sources available. Have a working flashlight on hand in every room of the house, if possible, and for every family or household member (see below).
LED lighting: Battery-operated LED lighting is much safer than lit candles during an emergency or power outage, as well as for lighting under a cabinet or in a dark closet or hallway. Peel-and-stick lights are ideal for providing light during outages. With the many options of lanterns, flashlights, and headlamps available these days, there is no reason for candles, which can be dangerous. Review your home and work emergency kits and update if necessary.
Personal flashlights: All family members and coworkers should have easy access to a flashlight, which should be checked regularly. Compact flashlights can be kept in a purse, backpack, or desk drawer for easy access. There are also flashlights with magnetic backs that can be kept on a refrigerator. Make sure to keep a flashlight or small lantern in a nightstand or under the bed to grab in the middle of the night.
Area lighting: Dedicated area-type lanterns can be set on a high shelf and illuminate a large space. This will allow you to perform tasks or play a board game with the family while the power is out.
Headlamps: A well-fitting headlamp makes it a lot easier to read, cook, or perform any task because your hands are free. Many headlights offer various settings and pivoting lights.
Regardless of whether your home has a fully prepared emergency kit in the event of an earthquake, power outage, or other disaster, the following items are basic essentials that everyone should keep on hand.
Gas/water shutoff tools: Keep the gas shutoff wrench near your gas meter for quick access, and know how to use it if you have a leak. There are three ways you can tell if you have a gas leak: smell — natural gas has a rotten-egg smell; listen — you might hear a hissing sound; and look — if the unnumbered wheels on your gas meter are spinning rapidly, this could indicate a leak. If you do have to shut off your gas because of a suspected leak, only PG&E can turn it back on.
Water: Keep at least one gallon of water per person per day on hand to last for three days.
Radio: A battery-operated radio will keep you informed of what is happening. The Red Cross-approved Eton radio has a rechargeable battery that is solar- or crank-charged. They even contain flashlights and phone chargers, too.
Food and can opener: Canned foods that are easy to prepare are good as an emergency food source and have a long shelf life. Don’t forget to have a good hand-operated can opener on hand as well. (Make sure your canned-food supply is food you actually like. Those old cans of split pea soup or garbanzo beans might not look so tasty.)
First-aid kit: In addition to a basic first-aid kit, also keep a supply of your prescription medications.
Batteries: Make sure you are well stocked with batteries for flashlights and radios. Batteries do have a shelf life, so keep your supply fresh.
Backup phone charger: Many households do not have landline telephones these days, so if we’re out of power for an extended period of time, your phone charge may run out.
Cash: ATMs will probably not work and retailers might not be able to accept credit or debit cards.
GET YOUR NERT TRAINING
The NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) training program teaches people how to deal with a major disaster. NERT was developed by the San Francisco Fire Department in response to concerned citizens who, as a result of the 1989 earthquake, discovered they had no knowledge or skills to deal with a major disaster.
The goal of the NERT training program is to help San Franciscans be self-sufficient in a major disaster situation by developing multifunctional teams, cross-trained in basic emergency skills. Individuals learn hands-on disaster skills that will help them as members of an emergency response team or as a leader directing untrained volunteers during an emergency.
The 20-hour comprehensive program consists of six class sessions lasting approximately three hours each. Instructors are professional firefighters. There is no cost for neighborhood training classes. For information on NERT and to find out about the next class in your San Francisco neighborhood, see sfgov.org/site/sfnert.
AND, FINALLY …
Make sure all members of your family know where the emergency kit is stored. Also, make a plan on what to do in the event that an earthquake happens during the day, when most folks are at work and children are at school. Review your plan on a regular basis.