Are you ready?: Get prepared for Mother Nature’s challenges

November 2012 Posted in Other

By Brenna Wiegand

Think about the last snow storm. Were you one of the people waiting in line at the grocery store to stock up on essentials just in case you couldn’t leave the house for a few days or rushing to get gas and snow tires?

Most people are unprepared for common emergencies. Stumbling around in the dark for candles and flashlights without batteries, we resolve to be ready the next time – just the type of thing that falls under the “will do later” category but never gets done.

“Being prepared is the most important thing,” Ed Grambusch of Silverton Fire District said. “I wouldn’t go to sleep without a smoke alarm – being prepared for an emergency is the same thing.”

Faced with a situation, Grambusch says it’s fairly common for people to take a lit candle into the closet or even under the bed, which he has discovered while fighting their house fires. Lighting a fireplace or woodstove not used in years has caused many an attic fire. …and it’s incredible how many people he encounters who don’t have cell phone chargers in the car.

Being able to meet an emergency without excess trouble begins with creating a family plan that everyone understands – how get out of the house, where to meet, who to call… “…and then have a back-up plan for that plan.”

Water, food and warmth

Grambusch says basic survival boils down three things – water, food and warmth. The standard guideline for home dwellers is having adequate food, drinking water and warmth to go without assistance from government agencies or others for 72 hours. Make sure to put by at least a quart of water per person per day – a gallon is better. In an emergency, a hot water tank, which has an attached spigot, could yield another 50 gallons.

For food, lots of carbs are fine for short stints, but after a few days a diet should consist of one-third protein and two-thirds complex carbohydrates – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or nuts are good.

“But in an emergency situation, anything works, as long as it’s edible and has nutritional value,” Grambusch said. “And, if you don’t keep opening the refrigerator it will stay cold for three or four days.”

Grambusch said some hardware and other retailers sell inexpensive, ready made emergency kits packed into a 5-gallon bucket.

Candles are not recommended for use if the electricity goes out; battery powered flashlights and other devices are much safer and effective.

“If we use candles at our house, we count them and they stay in one spot – they don’t go anywhere,” Grambusch said. “That way, when you blow them out, you count them and you know you’ve got them all. Always burn them in a stable spot with plenty of room for people to get around.”

One of the biggest, deadliest mistakes people make, Grambusch said, is bringing any fuel-burning device inside – generators, gas lanterns, propane heaters.

“Some people will bring their charcoal briquet barbecue into the house to cook with,” he said. “These all produce carbon monoxide, which will kill you quickly.”

If you’re family is OK, Grambusch suggests checking on your neighbors, especially the elderly or infirmed.

“That’s a real biggie,” Grambusch said. “There’s nothing better than helping each other out.”

Going by car

When going by car, warmth and the ability to communicate become crucial.

“If you’re concerned about being stranded in your car, No. 1 – and it sounds quite obvious but people just don’t do it – is to keep your fuel tank full,” he said.

Pack a wool blanket or sleeping bag (space blankets take up little room) and a couple bottles of water for all likely passengers.

Granola bars and other nonperishables are perfect in a pinch.

Food, water and warmth looked after, remember phone and charger, jumper cables, a tow rope and chains – on board.

“Get snow and ice tires – and have them in the vehicle. It can end up taking hours and hours for a tow truck to arrive while you’re shivering cold.”

Signal flares are fine for warning fellow motorists, but should never be used for keeping warm.

“Believe it or not, the fumes that come off of them are absolutely one of the most toxic things you can inhale,” Grambusch said.

Community resources

Back at home, the city sets up warming (or cooling) centers during extreme weather – at the hospital or a school – and is working toward formalizing their availability so it can be available to residents when they need it.

In extreme situations, including hot spells, Silverton has a Red Cross trailer ready to be deployed. The unit can temporarily house and support 100 people and several church groups have been trained to operate it.

Library director Marlys Swalboski welcomes people to come in and warm up with a good book.

“If you are in an emergency situation, call 911,” Grambusch said.

“If there’s no phone communication, then basically it’s using your best judgment. Fire apparatus and police are out in large-scale events such as a severe ice storm, we have a lot of fire and police vehicles about – a person can always wave us down and we’ll do anything we can.”

He said Portland General Electric is does likewise.

“PGE is one of the best power companies in the country – and I’ve dealt with quite a few. They are quick, they’re courteous and they work like you wouldn’t believe.”

Whether at home or on the road, duct tape is something Grambusch won’t be without.

“You can use it for everything,” he said. “I’ve even used duct tape as a fan belt to get me home.”

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