June 3, 2011

Plan Ahead to Reduce the Impact of Natural Disasters

Information from Iowa State University Scott County Extension

Before natural disasters strike, families should develop emergency plans and create emergency supply kits. This message is one Iowa State University Extension hopes Iowans will take seriously. Planning before the storm clouds gather and rivers rise will save lives, fear and panic. “Create plans, write them down and share them with friends or family,” said Linda Fischer, ISU Extension regional director. “Be sure to talk with children about emergency plans.”

Fischer is a member of the Iowa State disaster planning team and works in conjunction with the Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) to build awareness of steps for natural disaster preparedness. The team is making several publications available that outline how people living in areas prone to tornadoes and floods can create an emergency plan and pack emergency supply kits.

“Iowans depend on their county extension office for answers after storms and floods hit; we want them to also think of extension as a resource for emergency preparedness,” Fischer said.

Tornado preparedness

Fischer said to start by designating safe areas to survive a tornado. “Determine the best place to seek shelter from an impending tornado in your home and workplace,” she said. “Be aware of designated tornado shelters in public buildings and private businesses. Use this information to create a plan, and if you have children, practice the plan. Be sure to take time to think about where you can find shelter if you are in a vehicle or outside.”

Know where to seek shelter in your home:

• Go to lowest level available (basement or cellar).
• Find an inside room with no windows and strong walls.
• If the room has windows, keep them closed.
• If in a mobile home, get out and go to the nearest sturdy building.
• Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench, or heavy table or desk, and hold on to it.
• Use your arms to protect your head and neck, or use a heavy blanket or pillow to help protect you and to cover your head.”If you are in a vehicle or outside, never try to outdrive a tornado because it can change direction quickly and lift and toss your vehicle through the air,” Fischer said. “Leave the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building. If there is no building, lie flat in a ditch or depressed area, cover your head and watch for flooding.”

Flood preparedness

Written emergency plans are also recommended for families, schools and workplaces in areas with the potential for flooding. Practice your plan, and share it with others. Plans that include home evacuation during the flood should include the following:

• Take your disaster supply kits with you when evacuating.
• Turn off utilities, and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or in standing water.
• Avoid walking through moving water.
• Avoid driving into flooded areas.
• Be cautious since floodwaters may be contaminated.

Create a Disaster Supply Kit
“Build disaster supply kits for all family members and pets for at least three days,” Fischer said. “Make the kits so they can be scaled down in case of evacuation. Preparing a kit for each child will add comfort and reassurance in a time of stress and anxiety.”

Basic kits should include:
• Food and water
• Medicines, copies of prescriptions, personal hygiene items, first aid supplies
• Important documents, personal identification, copies of insurance
• Cash or travelers checks
• Other essential supplies that your family may need: flashlights, extra batteries, blankets, seasonal clothing, a battery-operated or crank radio, a weather radio, cell phones and chargers

Additional items to include in a child’s kit include: books and games, extra clothes and shoes, comfort food, whistle (to blow to attract attention), paper with home address, parent’s names and phone numbers, other emergency contact numbers, current photo of the child and family, tooth brush and toothpaste.

For additional planning information and general information about tornadoes, flooding, helping children prepare for emergencies and a list of first aid supplies contact your county extension office.

Linda E. Fischer, Region 10 Director, lefisch@iastate.edu, 319-377-9839
Willy Klein, Extension Communications and External Relations, 515-294-0662