Thursday, April 05, 2007

Prepare Your Family in the Event of a Natural Disaster

An earthquake along the New Madrid Fault could affect as many as 24 Arkansas counties. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone to be prepared in case an earthquake or any other natural disaster strikes the region. Identifying potential earthquake hazards and advance planning can help homeowners reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life and minimize property damage.Here are some a few suggestions to get you started in your planning.

Check for Hazards in the Home

  • Fasten shelves securely to walls.

  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.

  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.

  • Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.

  • Brace overhead light fixtures.

  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections, which are potential fire risks.

  • Secure a water heater by strapping it to wall studs and/or bolt it to the floor.

  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.

  • Store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches on bottom shelves in an area outside the home’s living space.

Identify Safe Shelters During an Earthquake

  • Stand against an inside wall.

  • Hide under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table.

  • Move away from where glass like windows, mirrors or pictures could shatter.

  • Distance yourself from heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture.

  • Go to an open area, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways.

Educate Yourself and Family Members

  • Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information on earthquakes.

  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1, the police and fire departments, and which media outlets to monitor for emergency information.

  • Teach all family members how to turn off gas, electricity, and water.

Have Disaster Supplies on Hand

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Candles

  • Portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries

  • First aid kit and manual

  • Essential medicines

  • Emergency food and water to last several days

  • Non-electric can opener

  • Cash, credit cards and vital documents

  • Sturdy shoes

  • Warm clothes and blankets

  • Appropriate supplies, food and leashes for your pets

Develop an Emergency Communication Plan

  • Develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster in case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake. This is a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school.

  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family point person. After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

For additional earthquake awareness and safety information, visit the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management website at: