Did you know that most injuries during disasters are caused not by the actual event but by lack of planning and lack of appropriate management? This means that in any major event, individuals have a huge impact on whether and how they survive. Because most people will face an emergency situation at some point in their lifetime, learning how to deal with major disasters is an essential skill. Here are a few tips for dealing with natural and manmade disasters alike:
However difficult this may be, it is most important that you remain calm during a major emergency. When people are panicked, they become irrational, making life-endangering decisions and major mistakes. If you find yourself feeling unstable, take a few deep breaths and try to remove yourself from the situation momentarily until you regain your composure. Always act logically instead of emotionally, and consider the consequences of your actions before taking any major steps.
Provide for Your Immediate Safety
Once you are calm, your next thought should be to provide a safe space for yourself and your loved ones. In some cases this may mean a different room of the house; in other situations, you may have to evacuate. Whatever your situation, you need to secure a safe space before thinking about anything else. If you must leave your home, plan your exit carefully, remembering that larger routes such as freeways may be clogged with other fleeing people. Bring along what pieces of your survival kit you can safely fit in your vehicle, but don’t overload your vehicle at time you most need it.
If police, fire, and medical personnel have not been notified, now is the time to inform them. Sometimes this is as easy as calling 9-1-1; at other times, this may involve physically finding emergency personnel. Although you should not endanger yourself pursuing help in a disaster, relief workers and supplies will not be available until the appropriate agencies have been made aware of the situation.
Once you are physically safe and help is on its way, you should provide for your most basic bodily needs. This includes shelter and warmth, clean food, clean water, and clean air. If you have a survival kit, this will be as easy as locating and opening it. Otherwise, you will have to be more imaginative and use whatever you can find around you. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you are in a public place. The key is maintaining calm and using creativity.
At this point, you should tend to protect your property as well as you can. Turn off gas and utilities if you fear leaks. Shut off appliances that may malfunction. Keep in mind that common things like electricity can be deadly in a disaster situation. If you must leave home, lock the house securely. Although protecting and caring for property should come only after protecting and caring for people, it is still a wise decision. Remember that you will have a life after the disaster, and adjusting will be that much easier if you have not lost everything.
Communicating with Help
In a major emergency, communicating with help may be as easy as stepping outside your home. Otherwise, a hand-wound or battery-operated radio can help keep you informed. Keep the radio on at all times, as it is important to be aware of any new developments in an emergency. If you need help, a small whistle can attract attention and guide rescuers to your location. If you already have an emergency survival kit, both of these items should be included in it. Often phone lines will be clogged either from damaged systems or overuse, so do not count on having a cell phone or even a traditional phone to communicate.
Contacting Family and Friends
Do you know who to call in case of emergency? It is important before an emergency to establish a procedure for communicating during disasters. One way of dealing with this is to have a message person who will be responsible for keeping track of all family members involved. As soon as possible, contact loved ones to let them know you are okay so they do not endanger themselves looking for you.
The keys to surviving a disaster are remaining calm and being prepared. Maintaining composure will help you make life-saving decisions and find creative solutions to any challenges that arise. If you have already prepared yourself with a well-stocked survival kit, you can wait out the emergency with confidence and emerge physically and emotionally unharmed.