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Be Prepared for Natural Disasters
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If you are in an area where dry or drought conditions persist or occur at certain times, prepare for possible wildfires. Find advice at FEMA . Firewise, a program of the National Fire Protection Association in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior, offers interactive educational tools . Michele Steinberg, Firewise manager, says the advice is based on the science of wildfire behavior. Its catchphrase, “Homes that don’t ignite, can’t burn,” sums up the idea behind the tips.
Here are suggestions to prevent your house from burning down:
• Build new or retrofit with nonflammable materials. Particularly important: a noncombustible roof.
• Choose double-pane or tempered glass windows that typically better withstand a fire’s intense radiant heat.
• Select nonflammable siding or keep combustible materials away from your present siding.
• Keep the gutters and roof clean. Flying embers can ignite debris and spread fire to the house.
• Modify landscaping and materials storage to keep an area five feet from your house fuel-free.
• Within 30 feet of your home, keep the lawn well-watered and mowed.
• Consider xeriscaping, landscaping that focuses on drought-tolerant plants. Firewise offers plant suggestions .
• Remove tree limbs that hang over your roof. High winds can knock flaming branches onto your home.
• Ensure your street number is clearly marked for emergency vehicles.
Most earthquake-related deaths and injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects. One vital preparation can make a big difference: Have your home checked to make sure it meets the seismic code and is tied to its foundation. With the house properly tied together, the load can be redistributed, the house shouldn’t slide off its foundation, and it should be able to handle a quake’s rocking and sliding actions.
Beyond that, secure fuel tanks, water heaters and shelving. FEMA offers downloadable instructions , but suggests that, since these affect the structure of your home, they be performed by licensed professional contractors.
If a quake does strike:
• Stay away from glass, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall; drop to the ground; hide under sturdy furniture; and hold on.
• Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go out.
• If you are trapped under debris, don’t yell so you won’t breathe in dirty air. Tap on a pipe to let others know where you are. Don’t light matches in case there are gas leaks.
• When you are out of your home, stay informed about the damage and assistance available.
• Avoid turning on the power if there is flooding from broken pipes.
• If your home has been damaged, consider getting a professional to conduct a thorough inspection to make sure it is safe to enter.
You can be hundreds of miles from the coastline and still feel the effects of a hurricane. The winds are destructive, turning debris into deadly projectiles. But the dome of water known as the storm surge and flooding bring much of the destruction.
The National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service; FEMA ; and FLASH offer great tips. FLASH’s interactive Web tool can help you perform a wind-resistance inspection.
Here are some tips:
• Anchor things down. Bring in any outside items that could become airborne.
• Bolt doors at the foot and head using bolts with at least a 1-inch throw length. Have professionals reinforce the garage door and tracks with center support, and brace gable end walls with horizontal and/or diagonal braces.
• Cover large windows, doors, and patio doors with securely fastened, tested, and approved impact-resistant shutters. If you remodel, consider impact-resistant window and door systems.
• Trim trees and shrubs so they won’t break and smash into your home.
• Consider building a safe room. Check out FEMA’s downloadable publication .
• Turn off propane tanks.
• Have a roof covering rated for hurricane-force winds. Fasten rafters and trusses to walls with hurricane straps and clips.
• Disconnect appliances and equipment. Leave on one light to indicate when power is restored.
• Consider having licensed contractors inspect your home and help in repairs.
According to FEMA, almost every state is at risk for tornadoes. They can appear suddenly, with a damaging path that can be more than a mile wide and 50 miles long. Moving in any direction, they can occur at any time of day. Be prepared. Experts suggest you:
• Consider having a safe room since, even if your house is built to code, that does not mean it can withstand extreme storms such as tornadoes. You can have it site-built or install a manufactured safe room. A constructed or manufactured safe room or storm shelter should meet the guidance of the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) and the International Code Council (ICC) Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (NSSA/ICC-500).
• Notice of a tornado sighting is typically short — about 15 minutes, if at all. Be aware of changing weather. Look particularly for a greenish sky, large hail, and/or a dark low-lying cloud. If a tornado “watch” is issued, it means conditions are favorable for severe weather. You must remain alert and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or commercial radio or TV for information. If a tornado “warning” is issued, it means one has been sighted or indicated by weather radar and you need to take shelter immediately.
• If you don’t have a safe room, contact local government leaders to learn if your community has designated tornado shelters and their locations.
6. Severe Winter Storms
Major winter storms can bring snow, hail, freezing rain, and extreme cold that can leave you powerless in more ways than one. Here are a few basics to help you prepare:
• Stay current on local and regional weather forecasts.
• Add rock salt, sand, and snow shovels to your emergency supplies.
• Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel to last more than what might be the intended length of the storm. In winter, it’s always good to be well stocked in case of changing weather conditions.
• Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts. If pipes freeze, remove insulation, wrap pipes in rags, and open all faucets.
• Keep your home cooler than usual to save heating fuel. Layer your clothes and use blankets instead.
• If you need to use small portable kerosene heaters, ventilate the toxic fumes by opening a window to allow in fresh air.
• Stay dry and warm. Don’t wear yourself out, get cold and wet, or endanger your health by being out in the middle of the storm.
• Watch for a loss of feeling or a whitish color in your fingers and toes that may signal frostbite. The signs of hypothermia are shivering, disorientation, and slurred speech.
• Save the battery power of flashlights, radios, or other equipment. Use candles if you need light but be careful that a fire does not start.
• In case of a household emergency, try to keep your home exits and car clear of snow. You may want to arrange ahead of time with a shoveling and snowplow service to help you do this.
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