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How To Prepare For An Urban Disaster And Protect Your Family

Are you prepared for an urban disaster? How would you keep your home and family safe if there is a disruption in the systems and safeguards we rely on for normal life?

What Defines An Urban Disaster?

Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst urban disasters yet seen in the United States. It caused a large number of deaths, illness, relocation of a large population, billions in property damage and rendered much of an entire city uninhabitable. It was not the worst urban disaster in history and it will not likely be the last. Wildfires and earthquakes will likely destroy entire cities along the West Coast in our lifetime and acts of terror like the attacks of September 11, which killed nearly 3000 people, could be repeated.

Any act of nature or man that largely disrupts the systems that keep an urban population comfortable, safe, healthy and united as a community is an urban disaster. There are infinite scenarios that could cause such a disruption in everyday life as we know it. A disease agent, either naturally occurring or placed in the environment or water supply by a terrorist organization could shut down a major city for weeks or months. Riots which arise from any number of reasons,  could paralyze a city.

In the central United States there are entire cities, such as Dallas - Fort Worth, that have been built right in the middle of tornado alley. Fault lines, such as the one that caused the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 - 1812, are still there, waiting to slip again.  In the case of the New Madrid earthquake, entire towns disappeared as the soil liquefied as a result of intense shaking of the earth. The only difference now is that there are many more cities and towns located in the region.

 new Madrid earthquake disaster Map of the area affected by the New Madrid Earthquake

There is geological evidence of large earthquakes having hit the Northwest, along the Washington and Oregon coasts during the past 400 years. Those same fault lines, known as the Cascadia subduction zone, are still active and will again slip, destroying entire cities. In the Northwest United States the threat of destruction by volcano exists. Either Mount Hood in Oregon and Mount Rainer in Washington could someday erupt, as they have many times in the past, causing a major urban disaster.

What's The Point Of Preparing?

With such devastating scenarios as the aforementioned ones possible, what is the point of even preparing for such a disaster? In every major disaster there are some people that survive because of luck and many others who survive due to preparedness. Having an evacuation plan doesn't cost a thing. Having a backpack ready, with things your family needs to survive during an evacuation, does not cost much to make.

Similarly, having a supply of food and water in your home, should supplies of either be disrupted, could prove to be a life saver. Things like flashlights, emergency radios, medical supplies and a backup generator with enough gasoline for several days could help you survive an urban disaster by staying put, if that is your only option. Knowing about ways of storing potable water, such as cleaning and filling up the bathtub, could save a life or at least make life easier until the water supply resumes.

Keeping Extra Food On Hand In Case Of An Urban Disaster

After hurricane Katrina there was a severe shortage of food in New Orleans. Grocery stores were destroyed, burned or looted and supply lines were non existent. Stores, warehouses and distribution points of food could be compromised by any kind of disaster. For this reason you should keep at least thirty days of food on hand for every member of your family. Canned goods, dried fruits and things that require minimal energy to cook are the best. If your home is all electric, consider keeping a propane camping stove on hand, along with enough bottles of LP gas or whatever fuel it uses, to cook meals for several days. Make sure you have life saving medications, such as those for diabetes and heart conditions, on hand in ample supply.

Prepare For Your Family Pets

Make a plan to care for your pets during an urban disaster. Keep plenty of pet food on hand and have the necessary pet carriers, etc. needed to transport your pet. Make sure your pet has a collar and a tag bearing your address and phone number. Hundreds of pets were lost during Katrina and many of those that were found were not reunited with their owners because they lacked ID tags. Keep your pets vaccinated since pet diseases are spread during a disaster by sick animals.

All Hazards Radio

Weather radios are not just for NOAA weather broadcasts anymore. A new "All Hazards" system, using the S.A.M.E. system which only alerts persons in the affected area, can alert to you hazardous chemical spills, tornadoes, etc. The radio stays silent in your home until an emergency alert is broadcast for your area.


List Of Resources For Preparing Your Family

ASPCA Pet Preparedness




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