Safety and Disasters

How Guests Can Manage Emergency Situations

Hurricanes

Early in the day before the storm gets too strong, secure all outdoor furniture and decorations and if possible, bring these items inside.  Anything outside can fly in through a window during the storm. You do not want the windows to break because the wind pressure could lift the roof off if they do.
If the property has storm shutters, put them up, protecting the windows is an essential thing to do during a hurricane.
Duct tape an X on the windows on the inside. Tape more of the window if you can. This will keep the windows from shattering if impacted.
Get food that will last you for at least two days. The food should last the rest of your stay in the unit, as grocery stores won’t have much to offer the next few days after the storm. Stock up on bottled water, canned foods and anything that you can eat that does not need to be heated or refrigerated.
Fill up your gas tank. If you’re planning on leaving town after the storm, fill your gas tank before the storm. Most gas stations run out of gasoline because of people trying to get away from the storm. Also, because of the storm, the gas stations will not be able to restock for a while.
Wait the storm out in a safe place with no windows, like a closet or bathroom, on the first floor of the home. Some families like to wait inside of the car in the garage; however, do not leave your car on while you are inside of the garage.
If you have food in the freezer, either eat it before the storm or be prepared for it to go bad should the power go out. Prior to the storm, freeze a cup of water. Put a quarter on top of the frozen water. If after the storm, the quarter is not on top of the cup, you know that the groceries unfroze and refroze. Therefore, they are not safe to eat. If the quarter is at the top of the cup, the food is safe to eat.
Charge up your electronic devices before the storm and unplug them during the storm. We recommend you unplug your mobile phones and computers. Your technology could be ruined if the power goes out. If the power surges, it could fry their software. If possible, unplug all major appliances except for the refrigerator.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes can cause serious amounts of damage to properties. The damage they can cause is scored on the Enhanced Fujita Scale from EF-1, the weakest, to EF-5, the strongest. The higher the tornadoes “EF” score, the faster the wind speeds and the more damage it will cause.
If you’re stuck in a tornado, get to the lowest level of the house possible, like a storm cellar, a basement or an interior room with no windows. Reinforce all of the doors by moving the furniture against them or through other methods.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are difficult if not impossible to predict. As a traveler, there isn’t a lot that you can do to prepare for one other than knowing how to react when one happens.
The best thing you can do is stand in the arch of a doorway. The door frame is the strongest piece of construction in the home, so nothing will fall on your head. Otherwise, getting underneath beds, desks, and tables is a good idea. The point is to protect your head from anything that might fall, like debris, frames, vases, etc.

Winter Storms

Leave the water running at a trickle during the storm. While this sounds wasteful, it will keep the water pipes from freezing and bursting, which wastes much more water.
Cover windows with plastic during the storm in case they freeze and shatter.
Get food that will last you for at least two days. The food should last the rest of your stay in the unit, as grocery stores won’t have much to offer the next few days. Stock up on bottled water, canned foods and anything that you can eat that does not need to be heated or refrigerated.
Shovel outside the door whenever possible. You do not want to be trapped inside the property by piled up snow.

Charge up your electronic devices before the storm and unplug them during the storm. Your technology could be ruined if the power goes out. If the power surges, it could fry their software. If possible, unplug all major appliances except for the refrigerator.  Try not to use your phones during the storm. It’s important for them to have battery in case you need to call for help.

Fires

You won’t know that a fire is coming in advance. The best thing for a traveler to do in case of a fire is to evacuate the property.

Sinkholes

Typically when a sinkhole is at risk for swallowing a property, the people inside have only minutes to get out. The best way to prepare for a sinkhole is to prepare to get out of the home quickly.
Keep things that you need with you in one place so you can grab them and go (i.e. credit cards, car keys, dog leash, etc.). When you find out about a sinkhole, evacuate  as quickly as possible. Emergency professionals may be able to guide you back into the property to recover more of your possessions, but there is really no guarantee.

Floods

Under typical flood conditions, you have plenty of time to prepare for a flood. It takes hours and even days for the water to rise. However, flash floods are not like most floods. They happen rapidly and without warning.
To protect yourself while staying in a home that could suffer flooding, you should:

Barricade the doors, vents and anywhere water could enter with sandbags. The sand will absorb the water and stop it from entering the home.
If possible, move all appliances to the highest level of the home or outside. They could send electric pulses through the water should your space flood and electrocute someone. Moving them to a high level protects them and could stop that from happening.
Do not step in the water. As difficult as that might be, it is very easy to get electrocuted if you do step in the water.
Plug basement floor drains to prevent toxic sewage from backing up into the home.
If it is not a flash flood, you will have time to prepare. You should head to the grocery store and purchase water bottles and gallon water. Tap water will be unsafe to drink after the flood until you are notified otherwise by the news.
Throw away any food that comes in contact with flood waters. That food is likely contaminated and unsafe for you to eat.
Wear rubber boots and gloves when interacting with flood water. It is toxic and you want to avoid skin contact with it.
Once the risk of water flooding in is gone, open the doors and windows. You want fresh air to flow into the unit to circulate out moist air that could cause mold.

Mudslides and Land Flows

Landslides occur in all U.S. states and are caused by earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, fires and human changes to the land. They happen fast; therefore, there is not much a traveler can do to prepare.
Land flows can move for miles and miles, and they grow in size as they move and pick up trees, dirt and even cars.

Stay awake during the landslide. Many of the deaths that occur during mudslides happen to people who are sleeping and cannot react.
Find out if you are close to a stream or channel. If you are, be alert for changes in the water flow. For example, the water might change from clear to muddy, meaning that the debris could be flowing towards you. If the debris is coming toward you, you might need to move quickly.

If you have warning, charge up your electronic devices. Try to use your phone only for emergencies.  It’s important for them to have battery in case you need to call for help.
Listen to local news on a battery-powered radio or on your phone.
If possible, get to a location that is at a high elevation. It is difficult for mud to flow upwards – though it is possible. Avoid valleys and other low areas.
Listen for any strange noises, as they can indicate if the mudslide is coming your way.
If you need to evacuate the home you are staying in, it is best to go to a shelter. To find one in your area text SHELTER and the zip code you are into 4FEMA or 43362.
After the landslide is over, you should still stay away from the area because there can be additional slides.

Tsunamis

If you’re staying on a property that is near the water and also a fault line, there can be a tsunami while you’re on the property. Tsunamis cause mass destruction and you will not know about one too far ahead of time.
A Tsunami Warning means that dangerous tsunami conditions are present. These are used when a high magnitude earthquake has hit underwater.
A Tsunami Watch means that there might be a tsunami. A Tsunami Watch is not a verified tsunami, but it does mean you should evacuate as one might reach land within the hour.

Volcanoes

Volcanoes are a combination natural disaster. That means when a volcano erupts, there are usually earthquakes, mudflows, landslides, flash floods, acid rain, fire, and tsunamis. Therefore, be aware of the safety precautions regarding those natural disasters, as well.
In the case of a volcano, you should turn off gas, electricity, and water, if possible. Stay aware of evacuation orders issued by officials in your area.

Additional Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters

https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies.html

https://www.ready.gov

Mobile App for Red Cross:  https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps.html