Emergency Preparedness

8:50 AM, Sep 5, 2012   |    comments
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FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia (WUSA)--"I would say it doesn't hurt to be prepared," says Tim MacWelch from his Fredericksburg, Virginia house.

MacWelch is founder of Earth Connection, a school of wilderness survival.  His line of work helps him plan for the worst--including in the home, if disaster strikes.

MacWelch's Emergency Preparedness Video Tips

"I've got a small camping stove I can use to cook on if we lose power," MacWelch shows 9NEWS NOW.

His house is equipped with the essentials for power outages--lots of flashlights and batteries.  MacWelch is also ready for the loss of water.

"I've got enough water for my family for 3 days. Plus I also have some water purification tables in case I need to purify even more drinking water and I have a water purification pump."

He also has a battery operated smoke detector and all-purpose fire extinguisher.  Not to mention plenty of non-perishable foods to last a family of four for 2 weeks.

"Having some household preparations can give you some comfort. You know you are provided for at least a little bit of time," says MacWelch.

MacWelch is a rarity says the American Red Cross' Lisette Bishins.

"He's my hero," Bishins tells 9NEWS NOW'S Derek McGinty from her Alexandria, Virginia headquarters.

Bishons says minimally families need to have enough supplies on hand to last 3 days without the luxuries of day-in and day-out living.

"I think people have become complacent.  I think it (disaster/emergency preparedness) isn't something that rises to the top.  And preparedness is not sexy....You don't get immediate satisfaction," says Bishins.

So what do you need to do to prepare for a disaster?  Here is an emergency preparedness checklist for your family (source: American Red Cross):

Prepare a Disaster Supplies Kit

Note:  The American Red Cross sells handy backpacks etc. with many of the supplies you see here.  These backpacks also serve a s a great "run bag" in case you have to depart your house quickly.


  • A supply of water (one gallon per person per day).  Store water in sealed, unbreakable containers.  Identify the storage date and replace every six month.


  • A supply of non-perishable packaged or canned food and a non-electric can opener.


  • A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes.


  • Blankets or sleeping bags.


  • A first aid kit and prescription medications (enough to last you at least 7 days).


  • An extra pair of glasses.


  • A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.


  • Credit cards and plenty of cash.  You need to remember ATM's may be out of order during a disaster.


  • An extra set of car keys.


  • A list of family physicians and their phone numbers.


  • A list of important family information; the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers.


  • Keep family records in a water and fire-proof container.


  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.



Prepare an Emergency Car Kit


  • Battery powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.


  • Blanket


  • Booster cables


  • Fire extinguisher (5lb, A-B-C type)


  • First aid kit and manual


  • Bottled water and non-perishable high energy foods such as granola bars, raisins and peanut butter.


  • Maps, Shovel, Flares


  • Tire repair kit and pump


Create an Emergency Plan

  • Meet with household members to discuss the dangers of fire, severe weather, earthquakes and other emergencies. Explain how to respond to each.


  • Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.


  • Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.


  • Draw a floor plan of your home.  Mark two escape routes from each room.  Have family drills at least twice a year and practice these escape routes.


  • Pick two emergency meeting places:  A place near your house in case of a fire; and a place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home after a disaster.


  • Show family members how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches when necessary.  Note: it's important to turn off your water main and open your spouts if you lose power/heat for a long period of time in cold weather.  This prevents pipes from freezing and bursting. 


  • Post emergency phone numbers near telephones.


  • Teach children how and when to call 911, police and fire.


  • Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information.  Make sure you have a radio that can run on batteries.


  • Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative for family members to call if separated during a disaster (it is often easier to call out-of-state than within the affected area).


  • Teach children your out-of-state contact's phone numbers.


  • Take a basic first aid and CPR class.


  • Don't forget the pets!  Make sure you have at least 3 days worth of food, water and medications for them too (if not more).


If You Need to Evacuate

  • Listen to a battery powered radio for the location of emergency shelters.  Follow instructions of local officials.


  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.


  • Take your Disaster Supplies Kit


  • Lock your house.


  • Use travel routes specified by local officials.


  • If you are sure you have time, shut off water, gas and electricity-if instructed to do so.


  • Let others know when you left and where you are going.


  • Make arrangements for pets.  Animals may not be allowed in public shelters.


Home Hazard Hunt
In a disaster, ordinary items in the home can cause injury and damage.  Anything that can move, fall, break or cause a fire is a potential hazard.

  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections.


  • Fasten shelves securely and brace overhead light fixtures.


  • Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves.


  • Hang pictures and mirrors away from beds.


  • Strap water heater to wall studs.


  • Repair cracks in ceilings or foundations.


  • Store week killers, pesticides and flammable products away from heat sources.


  • Place oily polishing rags or waste in covered metal cans.


  • Clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors and gas vents.


Fire Safety

  • Plan two escape routes out of each room.


  • Practice fire drills at least twice a year.


  • Teach family members to stay low to the ground when escaping from a fire.


  • Teach family members never to open doors that are hot.  In a fire, feel the bottom of the door with the palm of your hand.  If it is hot, do not open the door.  Find another way out.


  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home.  Ideally placing detectors in each bedroom as well is ideal--especially if someone is a smoker.  Clean and test the detectors at least once a month.  Change batteries at least twice a year.


  • Keep a whistle in each bedroom to awaken household in case of fire.


  • Check electrical outlets.  Do not overload outlets.


  • Purchase and learn how to use a fire extinguisher (5lb., A-B-C type).


  • Have a collapsible ladder on each upper floor of your house. Ideally in each room.


  • Consider installing home sprinklers.


Pet Preparedness

  • Keep a collar, current license and up-to date ID tags on your pet at all times. Consider having your pet micro-chipped.


  • Make sure your pet is comfortable being in a crate, box, cage, or carrier for transport.


  • Keep an updated list of trusted neighbors who could assist your animals in case of an emergency.


  • Tighten and secure latches on birdcages. Fasten down aquariums on low stands or tables.


  • Inform animal rescue workers of your pets' status: On your front door or in a highly visible window, use chalk, paint or marker to write the number and types of pets in your residence. Include their location in your home and the date that you evacuated.


  • Do not tie up your pet in your home.


Make a Go-Bag for each pet that includes:

  • Sturdy leashes and pet carriers. A pillowcase is a good option for transporting cats and other small animals. Muzzles for dogs. Food, potable water and medicine for at least one week


  • Non-spill bowls, manual can opener and plastic lid


  • Plastic bags, litter box and litter


  • Recent photo of each pet


  • Names and phone numbers of your emergency contact, emergency veterinary hospitals and animal shelters


  • Copy of your pet's vaccination history and any medical problems


  • Portable fencing or baby gates


Helpful Phone Numbers


Pepco: 1-877-737-2662

Dominion Virginia Power: 1-888-667-3000

Allegheny Power: 1-800-255-3443

NOVEC - Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative: 1-888-335-0500

Baltimore Gas & Electric: 1-877-778-2222

SMECO - Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative: 1-877-74-SMECO

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