Shelter-In-Place After a Storm or an Earthquake
In preparation for, or following a disaster you may be directed by authorities to evacuate your home or business, or you may be able to shelter-in-place. When discussing shelter-in-place, we need to divide the subject into two separate categories. The first category is using a building as simply a shelter from the elements and the second is protection from chemical, biological or radioactive contaminants. In this article I will address the first.
Even though there may be damage to a structure from an earthquake, wind or snow storm, if the building has not lost its structural integrity and been "red tagged," then you may want to use it as a shelter. I will be using the acronym SHELTER to help organize the steps in planning.
S=Secure the building
- Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. If there are broken windows or doors that won't close tightly, you will need to cover these to keep out the cold, wind, rain, and other elements. I recommend having several roles of plastic sheeting, at least 6 mil, works best; thin wood strips, 1/2" x 2"; and nails with flat heads, long enough to go through the wood, plastic and into the siding. Don't use finishing nails. Cut out a piece of the sheeting several inches larger than the area you are covering, fold the edges of the plastic sheeting around the wood strips once or twice and nail them to the siding around the window or door. Duct tape can come in handy to seal any cracks and has many other uses during a disaster, so always keep a couple rolls on hand.
- Close fireplace damper when the fireplace is not in use.
- If there is damage to the roof or a skylight, use tarps to cover areas where water or other elements may come in, wrapping the wood strips around the edges of the tarp and nailing the wood to the roof. Also nail strips of wood onto several areas of the tarp, as shown in the picture on the right, to help keep the tarp from catching the wind and blowing off. Generally, it is not a good idea to hammer nails into a roof, but in an emergency where there is severe damage, this is a good stopgap measure.
- During the colder part of the year, you will be trying to stay warm. At home, this should be easily resolved using blankets, sleeping bags and warm clothing, but at work or in your vehicle you will need to store blankets, etc.
H=H2O, good ol' water
There is the likelihood that during a major earthquake, water lines will be damaged and it could be days before emergency services are able to bring potable water to you. Have a minimum of eight ounces of water for five days for everyone in your household or office. Pouches of water are not expensive and storing an additional supply is worth the cost.
In your disaster kit, you should have emergency ration bars. If you are sheltering at home, you hopefully will have the advantage of canned and other food, but in an office or when traveling, have enough emergency ration bars for all employees along with customers and others whom may shelter with you.
Following a storm, candles and gas lanterns can be used, but with these there is always an increased risk of fire. After a major earthquake, there can be broken gas lines and until this is no longer a threat,candles or other flammable lights should not be used. Flashlights, light sticks and battery run lanterns can furnish the light needed, and remember to store extra batteries, if needed.
It is important to have a source of communication. Preferably a landline, but cellular phones can be used and ham radios are emergency services' first line of communication in a disaster. The most important reason for having some type of communication is to contact emergency services, if necessary, and to let your emergency out-of-town contacts know where you are and that you are safe. In most disasters, phone lines should not be used for anything other than emergencies and generally both landlines and cellular connections are overwhelmed and access if difficult, at best. Following the 6.8 magnitude Nesqually Earthquake in February of 2001, two sources of communication continued to work; texting and the Internet. Because texting is sent out in "packets" a system of digital communication, the message can be held until there is an opening on the frequency and then transmitted. I have also been told that texting can sometimes be used where there is poor reception and a cellular calls will not go through.
In planning for emergencies, sanitation is often not considered. If water lines are broken, this can become a real health problem. Our store carries Restop 1, a disposable bag for urine, which neutralizes the urine and turns it into a gel. We also sell Restop 2, which contains and neutralizes human waste. The Restop Commode is a portable toilet, we have available, which comes with a soft, comfortable seat and utilizes the Restop 2. If living quarters are going to be restricted, there is a Restop Privacy Tent that is available, for use with the Commode. Hand sanitizer, soap and additional water will also be needed.
In the Puget Sound area, KIRO 710 Radio in Seattle, among other stations, is designated as an Emergency Station, and can give you access to the latest news. Store a hand-crank or battery operated radio and if using a battery operated version, have lots of extra batteries on hand.
Many of the items needed for shelter-in-place are available through Emergency Preparedness Northwest. Please see our product section.
“The Worst Time to Prepare for a Disaster is During One”
Emergency Preparedness Northwest has a seminar style presentation which we would be happy to give businesses, public and private organizations or neighborhood groups. We have helped hundreds of individuals learn to prepare for an emergency. As a service to the community, we offer to come present this seminar for free to private groups and non-profits. We also do business emergency preparedness and training for a fee.
Contact us for further details.
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Recent blog posts
- The Element of Fire
- A Magnitude 6.7 Earthquake on the Seattle Fault (Part 1)
- A Magnitude 6.7 Earthquake on the Seattle Fault (Part 2)
- Shelter-In-Place: Hazardous Materials
- Shelter-In-Place After a Storm or an Earthquake
- Securing Furniture and Valuables (Earthquake Prep - Part 1)
- Securing Shelving & Hot Water Tanks (Earthquake Prep - Part 2)
- Emergency Kit Contents
- Emergency Kit Parameters
- Attitude in a Disaster