If Disaster Strikes
Reprinted from the American Red Cross
Take the Following Actions:
- Remain calm and be patient.
- Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
- Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.
- If the disaster occurs near you, check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
- 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 contactódo not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
- Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
- Take your disaster supplies kit.
- Lock your home.
- Use travel routes specified by local authoritiesódon't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Listen to local authorities. Your local authorities will provide you with the most accurate information specific to an event in your area. Staying tuned to local radio and television, and following their instructions is your safest choice.
If you're sure you have time:
Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
- Plan to 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 or friend's home, or find a "pet-friendly" hotel.
- Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so.
Shelter in place
- If you are advised by 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 an interior room without windows 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 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. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.
Additional Positive Steps You Can Take
- Raw, unedited footage of terrorism events and people's reaction to those events can be very upsetting, especially to children. We do not recommend that children 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. However, listening to local radio and television reports will provide you with the most accurate information from responsible governmental authorities on what's happening and what actions you will need to take. So you may want to make some arrangements to take turns listening to the news with other adult members of your household.
- Another useful preparation includes learning some basic first aid. To enroll in a 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.
- People who may have come into contact with a biological or chemical agent may need to go through a decontamination procedure and receive medical attention. Listen to the advice of local officials on the radio or television to determine what steps you will need to take to protect yourself and your family. As emergency services will likely be overwhelmed, only call 9-1-1 about life-threatening emergencies.
First Aid Primer
If you encounter someone who is injured, apply the emergency action steps:
- Check the scene to make sure it is safe for you to approach.
- Then check the victim for unconsciousness and life-threatening conditions.
- Someone who has a life-threatening condition, such as not breathing or severe bleeding, requires immediate care by trained responders and may require treatment by medical professionals.
- Call out for help.
- There are some steps that you can take, however, to care for someone who is hurt, but whose injuries are not life threatening.
- Cover the wound with a dressing, and press firmly against the wound (direct pressure).
- Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart if you do not suspect that the victim has a broken bone.
- Cover the dressing with a roller bandage.
If the bleeding does not stop:
- Apply additional dressings and bandages.
- Use a pressure point to squeeze the artery against the bone.
- Provide care for shock.
Care for Shock
- Keep the victim from getting chilled or overheated.
- Elevate the legs about 12 inches (if broken bones are not suspected).
- Do not give food or drink to the victim.
- Stop the burning by cooling the burn with large amounts of water.
- Cover the burn with dry, clean dressings or cloth.
Care for Injuries to Muscles, Bones and Joints
- Rest the injured part.
- Apply ice or a cold pack to control swelling and reduce pain.
- Avoid any movement or activity that causes pain.
- If you must move the victim because the scene is becoming unsafe, try to immobilize the injured part to keep it from moving.
Be Aware of Biological/Radiological Exposure
- Listen to local radio and television reports for the most accurate information from responsible governmental and medical authorities on what's happening and what actions you will need to take. The Web sites referenced at the end of this brochure can give you more information on how to protect yourself from exposure to biological or radiological hazards.
Reduce Any Care Risks
- The risk of getting a disease while giving first aid is extremely rare.
- However, to reduce the risk even further:
- Avoid direct contact with blood and other body fluids.
- Use protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and breathing barriers.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water immediately after giving care.
It is important to be prepared for an emergency and to know how to give emergency care.
All of these recommendations make good sense, regardless of the potential problem. For more information on how to get ready for disaster and be safe when disaster strikes, or to register for a first aid and CPR course, please contact your local American Red Cross chapter. You can find it in your telephone directory under "American Red Cross" or through our home page at www.redcross.org under "your local chapter."
For information about your community's specific plans for response to disasters and other emergencies, contact your local office of emergency management.