Back a few years ago I was taking the F.E.M.A. Online Courses and the course I was taking was about Continuity of Operations. This course brought my education to an end with FEMA. What I learned was that if a house in my neighborhood caught fire and the Walmart up the street caught fire at the same time the neighborhood needed to get out their Garden hoses and storm preparation kits, because the trucks were going to Walmart by order of the President of the United States (see the Presidential Continuity of Operations EO).
I brought this up at a local Community watch meeting, and while every one of my neighbors told me I was wrong the Daughter of the assigned LEO holding the meeting assured us I was correct. She as a County Dispatcher went further to tell us that if I was laying on the ground with a bullet in my chest, and the Squad was en route, and a person with a known Heart Attack history called in with chest pains the Squad was going to get the known heart patient first, and come back later for me. This changed my entire concept of Disaster Preparedness.
So I revamped my disaster and storm preparedness to learning what I needed to do if there is no FEMA, Emergency Management, or outside help. The result is the reason for this article. You must prepare as if you are truly alone! Then when help does come you are relieved, not saved.
There have been a lot of Tornado’s in the past few years. They have two basic types of damage. First is wind damage caused by the 200 plus miles per hour winds, and the pressure damage caused by our new sealed homes. The pressure damage is caused by the lowering of the outside pressure on the home allowing the sealed windows, Doors, and Ceilings to push out.
The time from full pressure to low pressure in a Tornado is measured in seconds as the center of the funnel goes overhead. In a local storm here two years ago I went through the area and saw all four walls on the homes laying intact spread eagle out from the poured slab floors. The ceiling was usually sitting in the back yard or in the center of the home, depending on the height of the home and the elevation of the funnel base. When they say the funnel runs through an area it actually is one to two yards above the ground.
Storm Preparation and How to Help People
If you are first on scene the first priority is to shut off the power to lines on the ground. These usually come from poles. Somewhere in the neighborhood will be a pole with a lever locked down the side. This is a cutoff switch. Never touch it with your hand. I suggest using a dry board or rubber tire for a pivot point as water may be present on the pole. The local electric provider will really g-hate you for this so leave them a not to time and date (I don’t suggest you name) When it goes off a lot of pissed off folks with no damage down the line are created. They can wait a bit so the locals with shattered homes can get the wires off their homes, cars, and out of the water.
NEVER TOUCH A WIRE WITH YOUR HANDS OR ANY WET OBJECT.
The second priority is to look for injured in each home. If you go to the C.E.R.T. website their online course will teach you the procedures for clearing structures. It also has the details for determining if you should even enter the structure. A crying kid in a shattered home is like a siren to most folks. They rush in often to become a casualty themselves. You can’t help if you are also a casualty. Be very careful and never go in unless you have backup outside.
Things you will need to help are dependent upon your level of knowledge. The first thing for all will be a map of the neighborhood. These can be printed from Google earth in both Street and Satellite format. Using them mark off homes that you, or a member of your team have seen to be undamaged externally. Then identify homes that you have not seen the known residents. The neighborhood Community watch Coordinator will be able to tell you which homes are known to be vacant. The rest need a contact made.
Look at each house for damage, then knock on the door and ask if all is okay. If so then ask if water and Electricity is present. Then ask if they have Natural Gas or Bottled Gas attached to the home. If so you need to make a survey of the gas service to see if it is leaking. Smell test only. If so using a non-sparking tool turn the service off till the provider can come check it. While there check to see if there are any medical problems in the home. Things like people who are on Oxygen machines, drugs that need refrigeration if Electricity is off, and people who go to Dialysis on a regular basis who can’t drive.
When the survey is completed you can prepare a needs list when or if the Emergency Management gets to your neighborhood. Then you can also set up a radio net if the phones are out using FRS or CB radios if available. If not establish a command post near the access to the neighborhood and get some neighbors to man it to keep looters and scammers at bay.
Long before the even though there are things you can put away. The FEMA site has a booklet called “READY” that covers most of the basics. In addition here are a few off the top of my head.
• Three five gallon buckets of 14″ 2X4’s (cribbing studs)
• Three five gallon Buckets of 14″ 4X4’s (cribbing studs)
• Two five gallon Buckets of 14″ 1X1’s (cribbing studs)
• A 5 foot log steel pry bar. (cribbing bar)
• 100 feet of Rope (5/8″ dia. min)
• Two or three come-alongs (used to ratchet out cars from ditches, has ratchet one end and
• Hooks on both ends connected by 20 to 30 feet of steel cables.)
• Two sets of saw horses with a 4 each 2X4’s 4 feet long
• Two sheets of 4’X3′ heavy plywood for table tops.
• Three pairs of 2 x4 boards 6′ long that you can use for stretchers to move people.
• 6 ea 6′ x 4′ tarps for making stretchers and ground cloths.
• 2 12′ x 12′ tarps to make roof cover for command post.
• 1 full roll of 5/50 cord.
• 2 18″ bolt cutters with insulated handles.
• Good Military style medical bag.
• Non-Sparking Gas turn off tool CERT site has pictures and some tool stores carry them.
Water shut Off Tool
• Good serviced fuel driven chain saw with at least 18″ bar w/ bar oil and tools..
useable 3 to 5KW Fuel driven Generator with 5 gal of fuel.
**I will prepare an article on cribbing in the next few days. **
You have to remember that your purpose is to find and identify victims and identify their needs. Then when support becomes available they can get the medical treatment started.
The key is willingness to help. To prepare you need both Basic Red Cross training, and Basic C.E.R.T. training. One Red-cross trained First aid member can supervise up to 7 untrained in First Aid. One C.E.R.T. trained member can supervise 7 untrained in rescue operations. If that is added to the Neighborhood Protection team your neighbors and Family will survive most Storms.
The responsibility is to he who accepts it. Can you do this? Will you do this for your Neighbors and Family?
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