dis-as-ter: A sudden event such as a natural catastrophe which causes great damage or loss of life.
Ready for the “big one”? If you really are ready, congratulations, you are one of only 10% of those surveyed who have prepared in any fashion for an earthquake, or any other event which might classify as a disaster.
Once again, each September, we are reminded of the value of looking ahead and using past experiences to learn how to survive the unexpected. In this case, it means considering the possibilities of events, over which we have no control, will suddenly impact our lives. Government surveys have found that few of us really do much to prepare for the most common disasters.
Who will be there to help you? You’ll be on your own for at least 24 hours before first responders show up. Remember the last good shaker?
But, let’s look at some other events over which we have no control and are far more common than earthquakes. Most people who like to cook will tell you that that cooking with a gas is a must. Natural gas is flammable, easily disperses in air and can cause asphyxiation. It is not uncommon to hear of people who have had to flee their house because of fire or explosion, and we still hear of those who have succumbed in their sleep.
In 2010, in the city of San Bruno, near San Francisco, a 30 inch gas transmission pipeline owned by Pacific Gas and Electric burst into flames with such a roar that it registered as a 1.1 earthquake. Eight people were killed, more injured. Thirty-five houses were destroyed and many others damaged. Such is the power of natural gas.
How do you prepare to prevent tragedy in your home? Call the gas company , SoCalGas at 1-800-427-2200 for a review of your appliances and gas supply lines. They will happily check things out. Prepare.When I was in college a thousand years ago, I remember being rousted from sleep in the rooming house to help a neighbor next door take her burning mattress out of her room and tossing it out a window to the sidewalk, where it smoldered for hours.
Small fires like that are common, especially in the kitchen. Have a simple fire extinguisher? Know how to use it? CERT can teach you. And, what if your building or the building next door is on fire? Does your building have sprinklers? Emergency lighting? Are you prepared to evacuate your place? Is there more than one way out of the building?
If you are the person who discovers the fire, call 9-1-1 immediately then spread the word. When the fire alarm (does your building have one?) sounds you may not have time to assemble the items you want to take with you. Prepare.
Here’s a situation we may all be facing sooner than later: Power outages. We are so connected to our electrical devices that we feel absolutely lost without them. It’s not just the lights, the TV, and other devices which require electricity to work, it’s the whole interruption of every day life. What do you do if you have no electricity to re-power your phone, you iPad or your computer?
There are products on the market to do that for you. It’s worse for those who may have medical devices dependent upon electricity. How to plan for an electrical blackout? Battery backup units and solar activated units for cell phones and small internet devices are not expensive and there must be a hundred different manufacturers of such. But, knowing about them and having one on hand are two different things.
Online, one can check retailers of travel clothing and allied items among other resources. Prepare. How do you react to what are now called “heat events” when the temperature is so high that it can kill? First, learn about heat and how it affects the human body. Overheating comes in stages and is often caused by dehydration heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat and stroke a life-threatening experience. Go to redcross.org for some specifics.
Not everybody has an air conditioner to cool them. But there are things you can do to help you get through a heat wave. Window coverings should be closed early in the day when a heat advisory is given. Plan on having plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated , a singular prevention for heart cramps. Using cool, damp cloths on certain areas such as your forehead or wrists can assist in lowering your body temperature. Drinking beer won’t keep you hydrated , it could have the opposite effect.
West Hollywood currently has one cooling center at Plummer Park, if you can get there. For more info on this subject contact the American Red Cross , redcross.org/heat or weho.org. Prepare.
Let’s go back to earthquakes. You may not feel the full effect of a minor quake, say a 2.0 tremor, but they occur nearly every day all around Southern California. My old 1927 house, though bolted to its foundation with added cripple walls and other strengthening measures, is nevertheless constantly pushed this way and that by the small quakes. Cracks over doorways are constant. Apartment and condo buildings, even those they may be properly retro-fitted for quakes, are affected. Some doors don’t close completely anymore, but that might change with the next ground movement. We should be pros now, but we need regular reminders of where we live.
Dr. Lucy Jones, in an LA Times opinion piece on Wednesday, August 25, asks, “Will crawling out alive be enough?” By that she underlines reality by saying that “surviving is not the same as recovering.” If you lose your living space and your possessions, what’s next? Repeating her oft-familiar concerns, she continues to lobby for much stricter building codes for seismic event preparation. More citizen education and preparation is absolutely necessary which includes drills and exercises with community groups such as CERT. For a wider view of earthquake preparation go to ready.gov and fema.gov. Prepare.
Almost overlooked: animals in a disaster.
Maybe the city has some ideas on local resources to care for our domestic animals in an emergency. Ask your vet, also. Ready.gov.
It is only human nature to want to be of help in the case of an accident or a disaster. Often a large number of people show up wanting to help. These people are known as “convergent volunteers”, all with wonderful intentions but usually with few skills to aid the situation. In fact, these people are often the one accountable for the highest casualty rate, because their willingness to assist exceeds their knowledge of how to assist.
At the end of several paragraphs above, I have written: Prepare. The very best way to prepare is to become a CERTeam member. West Hollywood once supported CERT, but mysteriously dropped its sponsorship many years ago. CERT -Community Emergency Response Team was a concept created by the Los Angeles City Fire Department and is now operating in hundreds of US cities and has even been exported to Europe. Its is now under the mentorship of FEMA. which offers online training. One of the best active local CERTs is Culver City. If you are interested you can contact WEHO Public Safety department for class dates with LA County Fire Department , and while you’re at it ask a councilperson why the city does not sponsor CERT. Being trained is not enough. Drills and exercises are most important to sharpen skills and keep current. If you become CERTified, find out where you can get involved in drills. Remember the two best emergency preparedness resources: ready.gov and fema.gov.