Do You Know How to Respond to Typical California Disasters?

By: Kyana Nguyen
Eleanor Roosevelt High School Red Cross Club
Riverside Y.A.C.

 By now you have heard numerous ways to get prepared for disasters; however I want to share with you a bit about what to expect from the three most common natural disasters we face living in Californians.

FIRES

Living in an environment that is prone to dry weather, fires are a prominent hazard. Fires range in size; however the effects of its flames may be felt near and far and could impact firemany surrounding areas. If you live in an area that is prone to fires be sure you have a pre-identified escape route and 2 safe meeting places – one outside your home and one outside your neighborhood should you need to evacuate. Be sure to practice this route with your family to ensure everyone knows where to go.

Although California is currently experiencing a drought, floods can easily happen and many areas of the state are at an increased risk due to wildfires. After a wildfire, the charred ground where vegetation hasflooded sign burned away cannot easily absorb rainwater, which increases the risk of flooding and mudflows. Floods are often severe and hard to control. During a flood, you can expect the water to be dirty, and depending on the severity of the flood, the higher the water raises and the longer it stands there is a possibility for disease to spread. Preparing for a flood includes having an evacuation plan, knowing where to go and what to bring. When evacuating your home remember to turn-off the utilities and be cautious of objects that require electricity. If you are in a vehicle abandon the car and move to higher ground, and always remember that running water has the ability to disrupt any movement at six inches.

Since the San Andreas Fault runs throughout California, earthquakes are a reality and something everyone needs to be prepared to experience. During an earthquake it is earthquakeimportant to drop, cover and hold-on as items that hang from the ceiling, or furniture not secured to walls are likely to move or fall. It is also possible for trees to become uprooted from the ground and wires to drop, so if you are outside find a clear space to drop to the ground, cover your head and neck with your hands and hold-on. Earthquakes happen all the time, some are so small they are not felt, while others can be large enough to collapse buildings. Like fire and flood preparedness, earthquake preparedness requires a plan, supply kit and an out of area emergency contact.

To find more information about preparing, responding and recovering from disasters please go to http://www.redcross.org/prepare or download Red Cross mobile apps at http://www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps and prepare yourself today.

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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

Are you ‘Ready to Rumble’? Well, are you ready for when the earth decides to rumble? Yes, I’m talking about earthquakes. The tough thing about them is they can strike at any moment, day or night, in any season. They are so unpredictable-we never know if it will be a little one or a destructive one. What we do know is that being prepared is really, really, really important (Did you get my emphasis on how important it is?). So in honor of Red Cross month (and the little earthquake I felt this morning), I decided to do a little post on earthquake safety.

The Science Behind an Earthquake (just a quick summary):

Are you having 6th grade flashbacks to when you learned all about geology and how the earth is made of plates? Well, why is it important that the earth is made of tectonic plates? Because earthquakes tend to happen near the boundaries of these plates. As the plates move and shift against one another, it can create mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes. I can get into the science a whole lot more, but I’ll leave it to the USGS (it’s really interesting, so check it out).

Why Be Prepared?:

According to the Red Cross earthquake page, 45 states and territories in the U.S. are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes. So it’s not just part of living in California. If strong enough, an earthquake can damage buildings, roads, and disrupt power lines. This is why everyone should be prepared. Because if any of this stuff happens it will be hard for help to reach you/responders will be dealing with helping a lot of people at the same time.

Don’t be afraid though! It may sound really serious, but if you are prepared and know what to do it can make dealing with a big quake a lot less scary. The Red Cross page for earthquakes has a checklist to print (in several languages) and info on what to do during and after. Also, now would be a good time to update your safety kit. If you don’t already have one, you can put one together or buy one (link to Red Cross store-if you want to put your own together the store is a good place to get ideas of what to include). At the minimum, you should have a first-aid kit (one for home, car, and office). Click here for a list of what to include (recommened by the Red Cross, of course).

Some Cool Quake Related Sites:

You can check out real-time updates of earthquakes all over the world here (provided by USGS). This site also has lots of info about earthquakes and how to prepare. There is even a kids section that has games and puzzles, pictures and ‘ask a geologist’ section (Bonus: it also has science fair ideas for your kids.). They also have a ‘Did You Feel It?‘ page where people can post when they feel the earth move.

National Child Safety and Protection Month 1

November brings fall, Thanksgiving, and National Child Safety and Protection month. While it is always important to keep the safety of little ones in mind, this month serves as a reminder to do a sort of “spring cleaning”, if you will, for all things related to your kids. Each week this month, I will post something related to child safety, so stay tuned!

First, and we would not be the Red Cross if we did not start here, every family needs to be prepared for a disaster. Disasters are always stressful and being unprepared makes it even more so. So follow these tips to make sure everyone in your family is safe, relatively calm, and have everything they need in the face of any catastrophe.

  • Make sure all disaster plans are up to date and that everyone in your family knows them. If your family does not have one, now is a great time to plan.  Have a practice run to ensure everything will run smoothly when the real thing happens.
  • Update your emergency bag. Include things your children require, or use, on a daily basis; for example, diapers, pacifier, baby formula. This bag should be changed periodically to make sure it meets your child’s current needs (and that food/medication is not expired). Don’t forget:
    • Extra water
    • Non-perishable snacks and food that your child likes
    • Toys or a stuffed animal
    • Spare clothing
    • Blankets
    • Toiletries
    • Any medications (like an inhaler)
    • A flashlight for your child to use
    • A copy of important documents: birth certificates, immunization records, insurance cards, etc.

Hopefully that was enough to whet your appetite. If you’re still hungry for more, wait for the next post, or check out safekids.org.

Santa Ana Winds May be Coming, but the Wildfire App is Already Here

Santa Ana winds are expected tonight and with them a red flag warning, which means that there is also a high risk of fire danger.  Although we all hope that no fires occur, the Red Cross has released a free smartphone app to help everyone be aware of the risks and have a plan in place in case they do.

The Wildfire app, which can be found on iTunes and on the Google Play store, features interactive tools to help you prepare and let your friends and family know that you’re safe.  One of the most interesting things about the app, at least in my opinion, is a quiz on the wildfire history of the user’s location.

I knew that Orange County is a fairly high-risk area – I work for the Red Cross, how could I not? – but I had no idea that there have been more than 2,100 wildfires within 100 miles. As a comparison, there have “only” been 1,200 earthquakes within 250 miles.

Those stats, and today’s red flag warning, are not a reason to panic, but they should be an incentive to prepare.  Download the app, take a look at our preparedness tips, and, at the very least, please know how to evacuate and what items you truly would hate to lose.

April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month

Gosh, that’s a mouthful! But as a dog owner and general animal lover, this topic is very important to me (even if they slobber all over your keyboard while you’re trying to write a blog post). Though we’re nearing the end of April, it’s never too late to prepare for our four-legged family members.

Did you know that, along with our courses in CPR, First Aid, lifeguarding, and babysitting, the American Red Cross offers Pet First Aid? In fact, it’s one of the more popular classes in Orange County (I like to think it’s because we’re so pet-friendly). You can even order the companion book complete with DVD for cats or dogs.

It’s also very important to know how to help our pets during a disaster. Beforehand, while you’re putting together your emergency kit, make one for your pet as well. Include things like a pet first aid kit, medications and medical records (including vaccinations), and pet supplies (leashes, carriers, food, etc.). We even have this handy checklist to help you. And you can visit the Pet and Disaster Safety section of our website for more info.

But what about our other furry/feathered/scaly/shelled friends? I wouldn’t want to leave my horse/parrot/lizard/turtle out in the cold. Visit the Humane Society website for disaster preparedness resources for other animals and take their quiz to find out if you’re ready. While you’re at it, stop by our buddies at RedCrossDog or follow them on Twitter for great tips on how to prepare for and respond to pet emergencies.

When planning for disasters, remember: pets are people, too!

Weather Doesn’t Care

Unlike the aftershocks of earthquakes, which normally hit an earthquake-stricken area multiple times within a year or two, tornadoes in the same area are not a common phenomenon.  The Red Cross last week, however, began sending volunteers back to Alabama in another season of tornadoes, not too long after last year’s response.  The relief efforts are ongoing, and the organization continues its mission to always respond to disasters, no matter the scale or the frequency.

Surprisingly, California isn’t immune to tornadoes, as we’ve seen in hard rainfall and high winds among recent years.  There’s always a reason to be prepared for any emergency, including wind-related disasters.  Click here for more on the Alabama tornadoes and how you can stay safe when you’re in an area that has been issued a tornado warning.

SNOW!!

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to be along the east coast for a snow storm.  That’s right, I said lucky.  I love the snow and always have. One thing I did not love, however, was realizing I was woefully unprepared for it.

I work for the American Red Cross.  I have a disaster kit in my car and under my desk.  I should have known better, but apparently my common sense was on vacation too.  It’s one thing to realize you don’t have gloves (check!) or that your Uggs aren’t waterproof (check!), but it’s another to find yourself in an unfamiliar building when the power goes out.

My friends and I were lucky – the power came back on within a few minutes. But there were many times on the trip that I found myself wishing I had some preparedness items… just in case.

So here’s my suggestion to you, based on personal experience: At a minimum, keep a small flashlight in your bag or attached to your keychain. Here’s a more extensive earthquake and tsunami-specific list from the Travel Channel, but many of the tips could apply wherever you go.  Good luck and happy trails.