Nuclear power plant emergency (dealing with possible radiation exposure)

February 25, 2022

As of 2022, the World Nuclear Association says there are 430+ operable commercial nuclear reactors with over 90 of them in the United States, and 19 power stations in Canada so millions of Americans and Canadians live within 10 miles (16 km) of an operating power plant.

Also WNA reports there are 220 research reactors (50 in the U.S.) mainly on university campuses.

Even though governments and associations monitor and regulate construction and operation of plants, accidents are possible and do happen. An accident could result in dangerous levels of radiation that could affect the health and safety of the public living near a nuclear power plant, as well as people many miles away depending on winds and weather – so tens of millions of North Americans could potentially be affected.

Some other incidents involving possible radiation exposure may be a nuclear missile or suitcase nuke or a dirty bomb.

How is radiation detected?
You cannot see, feel, taste or smell radiation, but special instruments can detect even the smallest levels of it. If radiation is released, authorities will monitor levels of radioactivity to determine the potential danger so they can alert and protect the public. (Consider getting dosimeters [pen units, RADTriage, etc], KFM kits or NukAlerts for your personal kits to detect radiation levels.)

What is best way to reduce radiation exposure?

Limit the amount of radiation you are exposed to by doing 3 things …

Distance – The more distance between you and the source of radiation, the less you’ll receive. During a serious accident you may be told to evacuate.

Shielding – Heavy, dense materials between you and radiation is best – this is why you want to stay indoors since the walls in your home should be good enough to protect you in some cases… but listen to radio and TV to learn if you need to evacuate.

Time – Most radioactivity loses its strength rather quickly. Limiting your time near the source of radiation reduces the amount you receive.

What is the most dangerous part of a nuclear accident?

Radioactive iodine – nuclear reactors contain many different radioactive products, but a dangerous one is radioactive iodine, which once absorbed, can damage cells of the thyroid gland. The greatest population that suffers in a nuclear accident is children (including unborn babies) since their thyroid is so active, but all people are at risk of absorbing radioactive iodine.

How can I be protected from radioactive iodine?

Potassium iodide (KI) – can be purchased over-the-counter now and is known to be an effective thyroid-blocking agent. In other words, it fills up the thyroid with good iodine that keeps radioactive iodine from being absorbed into our bodies.

What if I am allergic to iodine?

According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, the FDA suggests that risks of allergic reaction to potassium iodide are minimal compared to subjecting yourself to cancer from radioactive iodine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what you should keep on hand in the event of an allergic reaction.

Many countries stockpile potassium iodide (KI), especially since the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi incidents. Several U.S. states also stockpile KI in case of an accident or incident, but people would have to wait for it to be disseminated so consider acquiring some for your various kits.

The FDA has approved 4 KI products – Iosat, ThyroSafe, ThyroShield and Potassium Iodide Oral Solution USP per www.cdc.gov. In an emergency, other options may be taking KIO3, applying iodine solution to your skin, or taking kelp pills.


Community Planning for Emergencies

Local, state and provincial governments, Federal agencies and utilities have developed emergency response plans in the event of a nuclear power plant accident. United States’ plans define 2 “emergency planning zones” (EPZs)

Plume Exposure EPZ – a 10-mile radius from nuclear plant where people may be harmed by radiation exposure  NOTE: People within a 10-mile radius are given emergency information about radiation, evacuation routes, special arrangements for handicapped, etc. via brochures, phone books, and utility bills.

Ingestion Exposure EPZ – about a 50-mile radius from plant where accidentally released radioactive materials could contaminate water supplies, food crops and livestock


BEFORE A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT EMERGENCY:

Learn the buzzwords – Know terms used to describe a nuclear emergency at a plant: U.S. / (Canada)

  • Notification of Unusual Event / (Reportable Event) – a small problem has occurred. No radiation leak is expected. Federal, state/provincial and county/municipal officials will be told right away. No action on your part will be necessary.
  • Alert / (Abnormal Incident) – a small problem has occurred, and small amounts of radiation could leak inside plant. This will not affect you and you shouldn’t have to do anything.
  • Site Area Emergency / (Onsite Emergency) – a more serious problem… small amounts of radiation could leak from the plant. If necessary, officials will act to ensure public safety. Area sirens may be sounded and listen to your radio or TV for information.
  • General Emergency / (General Emergency) – the MOST serious problem… radiation could leak outside the plant and off the plant site. In most cases sirens will sound so listen to local radio or TV for reports and updates. State/Provincial and county/municipal officials will act to assure public safety and be prepared to follow their instructions!


Learn signals – Ask about your community’s warning system and pay attention to “test” dates to learn if you can HEAR it. Nuclear power plants are required to install sirens and other warning devices to cover a 10-mile area around the plant in the U.S. (If you live outside the 10-mile area you will probably learn of the event through local TV and radio, but just be aware winds and weather can impact areas as far as 200 miles [320 km] away!!)

Learn risks – Ask the company operating the plant for brochures and data.

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit. Double check on emergency plans for schools, day cares or places family may be and where they’ll go if evacuated.


DURING A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT EMERGENCY:

Stay calm – Not all accidents release radiation – may be contained in plant.

Listen – Turn on radio or TV. Authorities will give specific instructions and information for each specific incident.

Stay or go..? – Evacuate if told to do so by local authorities … and …

  • Grab your Disaster Supplies Kit.
  • Close doors, windows and fireplace damper.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with face mask or cloth.
  • Close car windows and vents and use “re-circulating” air.
  • Keep listening to radio for evacuation routes & updates.


As long as you are NOT told to evacuate, do the following…

IF INDOORS – Stay inside and prepare to “shelter-in-place”…

  • Close doors and windows and your fireplace damper.
  • Turn off air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace and other intakes (they pull in air from outside).
  • Go to a basement or underground area (if possible).
  • Keep a battery-operated radio with you to hear updates.
  • Stay inside until authorities tell you it is safe to go out!


IF OUTDOORS – Get indoors as soon as possible!

  • Cover mouth and nose with a cloth or napkins and find shelter.
  • Once inside, remove clothing, shower & wash hair and put on fresh clothing and different shoes. Put clothes and shoes you were wearing in plastic bags, seal and store. Local authorities can tell you what to do with bags.


IF IN A VEHICLE – Keep windows up, close vents, use “recirculating” air and keep listening to radio for updates. If possible, drive away from site.

Pets & livestock – Get them in shelters with clean food and water that has not been exposed to air-borne radiation, especially milk-producing animals.

Food – Put food in covered containers or in refrigerator — any food that was not in a covered container should be washed first.

Take potassium iodide..? – IF radioactive iodine has been released into the air from a power plant accident, some states may decide to provide KI pills mentioned at beginning of this topic to people in a 10-mile radius.


NOTE: Take KI pills ONLY as directed by local public health authorities and follow instructions on the package exactly!


AFTER A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT EMERGENCY:

Listen – Keep radio and TV tuned in — stay in until authorities say all clear.

Clean up – If you were possibly exposed to radiation…

  • store clothes & shoes – put clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers or plastic bags and ask health officials what to do with them
  • shower – wash your body and hair to remove radioactive particles
  • land and property – ask authorities how to clean up area

Weird symptoms – Seek medical attention if you have symptoms like upset stomach or feel queasy after a reported incident since it could be related to radiation exposure.

Gardens & crops – Authorities will provide information concerning safety of farm and homegrown products — or check with agricultural extension agent. Unharvested crops are hard to protect but crops that are already harvested should be stored inside, if possible.

Milk – Local officials should inspect cows’ and goats’ milk before using.

Some other incidents involving possible radiation exposure may be a nuclear missile or suitcase nuke or a dirty bomb.


Above extracted from It’s A Disaster! — learn how to order our 266-page preparedness and first aid book or ebook

Proceeds benefit the U.S. First Responders Association


New “Destructive” Severe Thunderstorm Warning category to trigger Wireless Emergency Alerts on mobile phones

August 2, 2021

Severe thunderstorms can be life-threatening, but not all severe storms are the same. Hazardous conditions range from tornadoes, large hail storms, and widespread straight-line winds called derechoes, to cloud-to-ground lightning and flash flooding. 

Starting 2-Aug-2021, the National Weather Service will better convey the severity and potential impacts from thunderstorm winds and hail by adding a “damage threat” tag to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, similar to their Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings.

“Destructive” and “Considerable” Damage Threat Categories

NWS developed 3 categories of damage threat for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. The categories, in order of highest to lowest damage threat, are destructive, considerable, and base. These tags and additional messaging are designed to promote immediate action, based on the threats.

  • The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least 2.75 inch diameter (baseball-sized) hail and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on smartphones within the warned area.
     
  • The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75 inch diameter (golf ball-sized) hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA.
     
  • The criteria for a baseline or “base” severe thunderstorm warning remains unchanged, 1.00 inch (quarter-sized) hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA. When no damage threat tag is present, damage is expected to be at the base level.

On average, only 10% of all severe thunderstorms reach the destructive category each year, nationwide. Most of these storms are damaging wind events such as derechoes and some of the larger, more intense thunderstorms, called “Supercell” storms that can typically produce very large hail in their path.

The new destructive thunderstorm category conveys to the public urgent action is needed, a life-threatening event is occurring and may cause substantial damage to property. Storms categorized as destructive will trigger a WEA to your cell phone.

Find some severe weather safety tips on weather.gov and download our free 60-page preparedness ebook plus some other safety tips at fedhealth.net

Source: Weather.gov


Lightning Safety Myths and Facts

March 6, 2021

Check out some lightning Myths versus Facts from the National Weather Service

Myth: If you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.
Fact: Crouching doesn’t make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit an average of 23 times a year

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning Myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!

Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. Better to get wet than fried!

Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.

Myth: If thunderstorms threaten while you are outside playing a game, it is okay to finish it before seeking shelter.
Fact: Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough. No game is worth death or life-long injuries. Seek proper shelter immediately if you hear thunder. Adults are responsible for the safety of children.

Myth: Structures with metal, or metal on the body (jewelry, cell phones, Mp3 players, watches, etc), attract lightning.
Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes. Mountains are made of stone but get struck by lightning many times a year. When lightning threatens, take proper protective action immediately by seeking a safe shelter – don’t waste time removing metal. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railing, bleachers, etc.

Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.

Myth: lightning flashes are 3-4 km apart
Fact: Old data said successive flashes were on the order of 3-4 km apart. New data shows half the flashes are about 9 km apart. The National Severe Storms Laboratory report concludes: “It appears the safety rules need to be modified to increase the distance from a previous flash which can be considered to be relatively safe, to at least 10 to 13 km (6 to 8 miles). In the past, 3 to 5 km (2-3 miles) was as used in lightning safety education.” Source: Separation Between Successive Lightning Flashes in Different Storms Systems: 1998, Lopez & Holle, from Proceedings 1998 Intl Lightning Detection Conference, Tucson AZ, November 1998.

Myth: A High Percentage of Lightning Flashes Are Forked.
Fact: Many cloud-to-ground lightning flashes have forked or multiple attachment points to earth. Tests carried out in the US and Japan verify this finding in at least half of negative flashes and more than 70% of positive flashes. Many lightning detectors cannot acquire accurate information about these multiple ground lightning attachments. Source: Termination of Multiple Stroke Flashes Observed by Electro- Magnetic Field: 1998, Ishii, et al. Proceedings 1998 Int’l Lightning Protection Conference, Birmingham UK, Sept. 1998.

Myth: Lightning Can Spread out Some 60 Feet After Striking Earth.
Fact: Radial horizontal arcing has been measured at least 20 m. from the point where lightning hits ground. Depending on soils characteristics, safe conditions for people and equipment near lightning termination points (ground rods) may need to be re-evaluated. Source: 1993 Triggered Lightning Test Program: Environments Within 20 meters of the Lightning Channel and Small Are Temporary Protection Concepts: 1993, SAND94-0311, Sandia Natl Lab, Albuquerque NM.

Find some Lightning Safety tips here and download a free 60-page PDF portion of our preparedness and first aid ebook.

Resources:

• National Weather Service Lightning Safety

• NWS Toolkit for Counties and Communities, Stadiums, Parks and Large Venues, and Golf Courses

• NWS Tools for Teachers  


Be prepared to test for #COVID19 anytime and have a plan to keep employees and customers safe

February 1, 2021

Note: This post contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.

Being prepared and having a plan to keep staff and customers safe during this health emergency is vital to any company’s (and community’s) long-term success.

A recent survey shows an overwhelming 82% of employees and 77% of customers would feel more comfortable if they knew employees were being tested for the COVID virus.

Now businesses, schools, churches, agencies, groups and families can get an affordable FDA Authorized test to help determine whether someone has been exposed to the virus within the past 4 to 24 days.

This rapid test reliably identifies IgG and IgM antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 in a blood sample drawn with a finger prick in 11 to 15 minutes with an online clinician.

ACT’s rapid test kits are currently 70% off so is less than $15 each (sold in groups of 3 kits for $44.55) … plus each kit includes a free month of Telemedicine services from Health Alliance Network.

And COVID COVERED Window Stickers are now included with every box of 25 Kits order so employees and customers feel reassured about safely returning to your business with added oversight of testing by HAN’s clinical assistants.

ACT also has an Affiliate Program so groups, volunteers and individuals can earn over 13% of kit orders (and get commissions on 4 levels) and it’s FREE to join!

Proceeds benefit the U.S. First Responders Association


FEMA releases $100 million in EMPG-S funding for ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (and our customizable preparedness book qualifies under this grant and many others)

April 16, 2020

On 14-Apr-2020 DHS and FEMA announced a funding notice for an additional $100 million in supplemental Emergency Management Performance Grant Program funds.

The EMPG-S money is available to all 50 states and 6 territories as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and FEMA will award funding to support COVID-19 preparedness and response; development of tools and strategies for prevention, preparedness, and response; and ongoing communication and coordination among federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial partners throughout the response.

A customizable tool that qualifies under EMPG (and other grants) is our 266-page preparedness and first aid manual (and PDF ebook) that can be customized with extra pages to include local plans, COVID-19 specific data and messaging or any other information agencies, businesses, schools and others want included for recipients.

For over 20 years many local, state and federal agencies and nonprofits have used our customizable book for communities since it qualifies as public education under most grants and provides tremendous in-kind and community match. Plus proceeds benefit the U.S. First Responders Association.

Fedhealth is a sole source, small business registered on GSA’s SAM database, the Ariba Supplier Network and many state and local procurement systems, and we can provide sole source or other documentation needed for work plans, to commit funds, straddle budgets, etc.

Learn more about our customizable preparedness and first aid book or ebook, and download a free 59-page PDF portion of it (that includes some data about coronaviruses and other infectious diseases, family plans, kits, disaster topics and more) at www.fedhealth.net.

And call Fedhealth at 520.907.2153 or email info@fedhealth.net if we can assist with your preparedness and communications needs for your employees, students, customers and communities.

(We’ve extended our hours and working 7 days a week during this outbreak.)


Be Bear Aware (black and grizzly bear safety tips)

July 15, 2017

A recent bear encounter story reminded us of an article we contributed to PREPARE Magazine years ago with black and grizzly bear safety tips using data from the U.S. Forest Service and a great organization called Be Bear Aware.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, black bears can be found across most of North America, whereas grizzly / brown bears are found in the northwestern states, Alaska and western Canada.

Both black and grizzly/brown bears may visit areas of human use because they find or smell food. Food can include unsecured garbage, birdseed, pet food, fruit trees and some gardens.

Drought, wildfire and urban development can cause bears to roam farther in search of new food sources. Young bears sometimes travel long distances in search of an area not already occupied by another bear.

Black bear versus The Grizzly

Black bears are the smallest of the North American bears and live in almost every part of the continent. But don’t let their name fool you since their fur can be black, various shades of brown, or blond. There is even one race that is smoky-blue and another race is pure white. But most black bears have long, black hair over most of its body with a splash of white on their chests.

BeBearAware.org explains Alaskan brown bear and the grizzly bear are recognized as separate species although mammologists generally agree they are one and the same animal. Bear experts admit they are unable to tell the animals apart, but one distinct difference is Alaskan brown bears are huge, formidable animals that may weigh as much as 1,500 pounds while large grizzlies can tip the scales at a top weight of about 800 pounds.

 

Black bear:

  • Colors include black, brown, blond, cinnamon, and rust. The most common snout color is light brown and some rare face colors are blue and white.
  • Average weight in the West is 100 – 300 pounds, with males usually larger than females. Males may weigh up to 400 or more pounds, with some as large as 800 pounds!
  • Height is 2.5 – 3 feet at the shoulder when standing on all fours and 5 feet standing upright.
  • Rump is higher than front shoulders; it does not have a shoulder hump/muscle.
  • Face profile is straight; muzzle is long.
  • Ears may be long and prominent.
  • Front claws are less than 2 inches long, dark colored, sharp, curved, and good for climbing. Claw marks do not always show in tracks.

 

Grizzly Bear:

  • Color varies from blond to black. Often medium- to dark-brown legs, hump, and underparts with light-tipped (grizzled) fur on head and upper body.
  • Average weight is 500 pounds for males and 350 for females. Males may weigh up to 800 pounds. (Note: Alaskan brown bears may weigh as much as 1,500 pounds.)
  • Average height is 3.5 – 4 feet at shoulder when on all fours, and 6 –7 feet when standing upright.
  • Distinctive shoulder hump is actually muscle mass that enables powerful digging.
  • Rump is lower than shoulder hump.
  • A dished-in profile between eyes and end of snout helps distinguish grizzlies from black bears.
  • Ears are round and proportionately small.
  • Front claws are 2 – 4 inches long, usually light colored.

 

Possible Conflicts with Humans and Pets

Most conflicts with black bears are the result of people unintentionally feeding bears, most often by allowing them access to household garbage or bird feeders. They raid dumpsters, garbage cans and grills looking for an easy meal. They might enter a building by walking on automatic doormats or breaking screen doors and windows to look for food they smell.

Although uncommon, black bear attacks on humans occasionally occur, especially in areas where they come into frequent contact with hunters or people and their game or food. Grizzly attacks (although rare) happen but usually it is because humans wander into their territories while hiking, bear watching, camping or hunting.

If you are camping, hiking, fishing or hunting in bear country it is critical to store your food, toiletries, bait, fish or game, and garbage properly at all times. And make sure you learn the local regulations for the area you visiting.

 

What Should I Do If I See a Bear?

  • Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.
  • If you see a bear but the bear doesn’t see you, detour quickly and quietly.
  • Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. If you are far enough and a safe distance away, enjoy the view but stay aware. If a bear changes its behavior, it is warning you so back away immediately.
  • If a bear spots you, you want it to know you’re human so talk in a normal voice, group together and back away. Try not to show fear. Bears use all their senses to try to identify what you are.
  • Remember that a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view of what it smells and hears.
  • Do not turn around and try to run from it. This will excite the bear. It can easily outrun you since they can run faster than 30 mph.
  • If a bear starts to approach, and you have bear spray, prepare to use it, if necessary, preferably before the bear is within twenty-five feet. Direct spray downwards (using one or both hands) since the cloud will billow up.

 

If a Black Bear Charges…

  • Throw something onto the ground (like a camera or a hat, bandanna or handkerchief) if the bear pursues you, as it may be distracted by this and allow you to escape.
  • Be loud, group together, stand your ground and, if necessary, use your bear spray creating a barrier between you and the bear.
  • If it makes or is about to make contact, fight back vigorously using any object you have like rocks, sticks, hiking poles, binoculars or bare hands or use your bear spray.

 

If a Grizzly Bear Charges and Makes Contact…

  • Play dead, lying on your stomach, clasp your hands behind your neck, and use your elbows and toes to avoid being rolled over. If the bear does roll you over, try to keep rolling until you land back on your stomach.
  • Remain still and try not to struggle or scream.
  • Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and still for as long as you can. Do not move until you are absolutely sure the bear has left the area.

 

To prevent further problems: 

If you live in bear country, take responsibility for not attracting them. Always work with your neighbors to achieve a consistent solution to the problem situation, and keep in mind that doing a combination of things is better than doing just one.

  • Be aware that human behaviors, such as feeding other animals, can attract bears.
  • Feed your pets inside or remove uneaten pet food between feedings.
  • Remove garbage regularly or keep in secure buildings.
  • Remove other enticing food sources, such as birdseed, hummingbird feed (sweet liquid), fruit from trees or shrubs located near buildings.
  • Remove brush and cover around homes and corrals, creating a 50-yard barrier.
  • Fences, lighting and dogs have not been found to be effective, long-term deterrents. Bears are good climbers, so to reduce a bear’s ability to get over a fence, it should be at least 6 feet tall and constructed of non-climbable material.

To learn more visit www.bebearaware.org

 

Our above article originally appeared in PREPARE Magazine’s Oct 2013 digital issue. Learn how to subscribe to PREPARE Magazine’s digital and print magazine at www.preparemag.com.

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Drug Safety for First Responders (USFRA group shares safety data about carfentanil, fentanyl, etc)

May 7, 2017

by Janet Liebsch – USFRA Executive VP and Fedhealth VP

In 2016 the U.S. First Responders Association shared a few safety posts and warnings to members and the public about carfentanil and fentanyl, however we recently shared a photo (seen here) with a warning to responders about carfentanil on a USFRA facebook post and it reached over 4 million people in less than a week!

Thousands of replies on the post were all over the map, and unfortunately many commenters went off topic since it was a public post with over 33,000+ shares, so people (a vast majority were not first responders) were arguing and debating overdoses, the war on drugs, rehab and more. There were also some great questions and posts from professionals in the field.

The main point of the post is warning medics, police and firefighters if they find drugs on a patient to be extremely careful when handling them since carfentanil recently landed 2 first responders in the hospital from inhaling dust while closing a ziploc bag a patient had. And the vials compare the potential lethal amounts of heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil.

Responders have been dealing with fentanyl for years, and carfentanil–a tranquilizing agent for elephants and other large mammals–started appearing in OD cases last summer. But carfentanil is really spreading across the country now since it is being cut into street drugs and/or sold as heroin creating a deadly nightmare for public safety, first responder, medical, treatment, and laboratory personnel.

For those not familiar with carfentanil, it is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin.

The lethal dose range for carfentanil in humans is unknown; however, since it is approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, it could be lethal at the 200-microgram to 2-milligram range, depending on route of administration and other factors. Some U.S. and Canadian officials even say just 20 micrograms of carfentanil could be lethal.

With overdose cases increasing exponentially and so many questions and concerns from responders to our 4/30 post, USFRA setup a new group called “Drug Safety for First Responders” where we are sharing information and safety data about fentanyl, carfentanil and other drugs ~ especially as it relates to scene and personal safety.

Many fentanyl-related compounds are lethal and could be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Law enforcement, Fire/EMS, health professionals and volunteers on-scene and at receiving facilities (e.g. hospitals, jails, etc.) should learn about these dangers and carefully follow safety protocols to avoid accidental exposure.

Some examples of articles posted the first week include:

DEA warnings to first responders about carfentanil and fentanyl (Post includes information from DEA’s official alert from late 2016 about the lethal dangers of these synthetic opioids plus has some on-scene safety tips for responding personnel)

K9s teams be on alert for fentanyl and carfentanil during searches (Article discusses how K-9 teams must be vigilant anytime they arrive on scene of a drug related and/or overdose call (and even when searching suspects) ~ esp. since deadly synthetic opioids are being cut into heroin, cocaine, etc. Drug dogs could be exposed to fentanyl and carfentanil by inhalation or absorbed through their paw pads. Agencies are starting to carry Narcan to treat a suffering K-9 before symptoms get out of control.)

“Gray death” combo drug includes heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and U-47700 … and Columbus first responders prepare for new drug called Gray Death (These 2 posts discuss a new and dangerous drug combination called “gray death” found so far in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio. It’s a combination of several opioids including heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and a synthetic opioid called U-47700, it looks like concrete mix, and varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder.) and

Please use this Drug Safety for First Responders group (and other USFRA networks and forums) to share safety tips, protocols, articles and other discussions and experiences from the field. Members and visitors are welcome to read and share articles, events, classifieds and more on our site, and follow USFRA on Facebook and Twitter.

Bill and I encourage all responders and volunteers to join the U.S. First Responders Association at www.usfra.org and invite your friends and colleagues too.

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Winter Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock

December 23, 2014

winter-tips-pets-livestock4Unfortunately many people think since animals have fur or thick hide they are able to withstand the cold better than humans, but often this is not the case. Cold weather can be as hard on critters as it is on people and may lead to serious illness, injury or death.

Gimme shelter: When the temperatures drop in the winter months, bring your pets and critters indoors since they can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. If you don’t have a barn or structure for livestock and other outdoor animals, at least make some type of windbreak to help keep them safe and out of the wind.

If you do keep livestock indoors, make sure the barn / building is well ventilated since ammonia can build up. Also add plenty of dry bedding (such as straw) to stalls, coops and cages so animals aren’t standing or lying on the cold ground, and provide a blanket for pets to sleep on. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Water and food: Make sure pets and livestock have plenty of fresh food and water, and constantly check their bowls and troughs to ensure their water isn’t frozen. Increase feed amounts for pets and livestock during cold snaps since they’ll burn more calories trying to keep warm. Also try to keep at least several weeks worth of feed on hand since you don’t want to run out when it may be difficult to have another load delivered.

Watch for signs: Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Ready.gov explains severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated. Cases of weather-related sudden death in calves often result when cattle are suffering from undetected infection, particularly pneumonia. Sudden, unexplained livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated quickly so that a cause can be identified and steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals.

winter-tips-petsAnimals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Your pets will give you signs too. If it is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.

Also, the AVMA suggests you check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association…

  • Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or person’s) body gets so cold it pulls all the blood from extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. An animal’s ears, paws, and tail can get so cold that ice crystals form in the tissue damaging it. Frostbite can be tricky because it is not immediately obvious. Sometimes the tissue doesn’t show signs of damage for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Hypothermia is body temperature that is below normal. This condition occurs when an animal is unable to keep its body temperature from falling below normal. It occurs when an animal spends too much time in cold temperatures, or when an animal with poor health or circulation is exposed to cold. In mild cases, the animal will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, muscles will stiffen, the heart and breathing rates slow, and the animal will stop responding to stimuli.

winter-tips-pets-cat-ck2Cat check: Outdoor and feral cats have a tendency to curl up against a warm vehicle engine during cold spells so check beneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to scare the critters away.

Hoof check: If you have hooved livestock, hoof care is very important during winter months since wet ground combined with dirty conditions (esp. bacteria and fungi) may cause thrush and foot rot. Robyn Scherer (author of “Managing Livestock in Winter Conditions” article in Countryside magazine) explains regular trimmings should be performed to keep feet in good condition. Also, if you own horses in cold country, pick their feet on a regular basis to prevent ice balls from forming, as this can cause stress on tendons and ligaments.

Antifreeze: It only takes a few tablespoons of highly toxic antifreeze to seriously jeopardize an animal’s life. Ethylene glycol, the most common ingredient in antifreeze, can cause crystals to form in an animal’s kidney, ultimately leading to kidney failure and death.

winter-tips-pets-tinsel-by-petflowHoliday food and decorations: Avoid giving your pets rich, fatty foods like ham, turkey or goose since they can cause stomach problems, plus bones can splinter easily. And keep toxic foods such as onions, grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate away from dogs, as well as plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Dogs – esp. puppies – like to chew and eat anything … and cats love to play with shiny, dangly things so keep an eye on decorative strings of lights (both indoors and out) as well as ribbons, tinsel, ornaments and candles.

Heaters: Check your furnace to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install (and test) carbon monoxide detectors to keep your pets and family safe. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing to even death. Also use space heaters with caution since they can burn your pets or the units can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire.

Move it: Exercise is good for pets, livestock and humans during the long winter months, but just make sure you don’t overdo it in the chilly temps and watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia (see above). Also make sure you wipe down pet’s paws after playing or walking outside to remove any ice chunks or salt that may have gotten wedged in their pads or between their toes.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe storms, blizzards, tornadoes and power outages. Create disaster supplies kits for your home and vehicles and don’t forget to pack supplies and water for your critters too. Download a free ebook portion of our IT’S A DISASTER! book to help you and others get prepared.

Sources:
American Animal Hospital Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Countryside magazine
Grit.com
Ready.gov

Above appeared in our Dec 2013 enews

Additional Resources:

Holiday Fire Safety Tips  (about Christmas trees, lights, candles, etc.)  

Preparing for winter storms (tips to winterize home, prevent ice dams and more)

Winter Driving Tips  … and download some Winter Storm and other safety tips in our free ebook

12 Days of Winter Safety (a comprehensive + cost effective list by FLASH.org)

‘Tis the season for Pet safety (infographic in PDF by Pets Unlimited)


Landslide and debris flow safety tips

March 26, 2014

landslide-fema-la_conchita-ca

According to US Geological Survey, landslides in the United States cause approximately $1-$2 billion in damage and kill more than 25 people on average each year. Worldwide, landslides cause thousands of casualties and billions in monetary losses every year.

Researchers at UK’s Durham University recently reported that landslides kill ten times more people across the world than was previously thought. Their Durham Fatal Landslide Database (DFLD) showed that 32,300 people died in landslides between 2004 and 2010. Previous estimates ranged from 3,000 to 7,000 fatalities.

One of the worst landslides and subsequent loess [sediment] flows on record happened in 1920 when the 8.5 magnitude Haiyuan Earthquake shook China for 10 minutes killing over 100,000 people.

Although landslides and debris or mud flows are primarily associated with mountainous regions, they also occur in low elevations too. According to Science Daily some key landslide hotspots include China, the Philippines, Central and South America, and India, but slides can happen anywhere in North America too.

Landslides are basically masses of rock, earth or debris that move down a slope often triggered by many natural events such as earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions. The term “landslide” encompasses five modes of slope movement: falls, topples, slides, spreads, and flows and can be further subdivided by the type of geologic material (bedrock, debris, or earth).

Mudflows or debris flows (a type of landslide) are rivers of rock, earth, and other debris soaked with water mostly caused by melting snow or heavy rains creating a slurry. A slurry can travel several miles from its source and grows in size as it picks up trees, cars, and other things along the way. They can even move houses off their foundations or bury a place within minutes due to their incredibly strong currents.

Whidbey Island WA 2013 mudslide before after

In addition to Mother Nature’s fury causing land movements, human activities like deforestation, cultivation, stresses on groundwaters, and construction on unstable land also play large roles.

There are some warning signs to indicate if you have a potential problem.

BEFORE A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Learn risks – Ask your local emergency management officeif your property is a “landslide-prone” area. Or call your County or State Geologist or Engineer or visit the USGS Landslide Hazards Program

Recent fires? – Be aware that areas hit by wildfires have an increased risk of landslides and mudflows once the rainy season starts.

Get insurance…? – Talk to your agent and find out more about the National Flood Insurance Program since mudflows are covered by NFIP’s flood policy.

Be prepared to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

Where would we go? – Decide in advance where you would go in case you can’t return home for weeks or months .. or ever. If your home is damaged or destroyed or you’re forced to leave your home due to on-going threats (like mudslides or flooding), you’ll need to find temporary or permanent living quarters. This could mean staying in a public shelter or hotel, living with friends or relatives, or renting a home or apartment in the middle of all the chaos, so discuss several options now. Then, write down those options and share them with relatives and friends.

Reduce risks – Plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls.

Inspect – Look around home and property for landslide warning signs:

  • cracks or bumps appear on hill slopes, ground or roads
  • water or saturated ground in areas not normally wet
  • evidence of slow, downhill movement of rock and soil
  • tilted trees, poles, decks, patios, fences or walls
  • underground utility lines break
  • doors and windows stick or cracks appear on walls, etc.

Call an expert…? – Consult a professional for advice. Or visit the National Landslide Information Center

DURING A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Strange sounds – Listen for trees cracking, rocks banging together or water flowing rapidly (esp if near a stream or river) – debris flow may be close by.

Move it! – Whether you are in a vehicle, outside, or in your home – GET TO SAFER GROUND! Avoid low-lying areas, washes and river valleys and look upstream before crossing a bridge in case a debris flow is coming.

Listen – Tune in to local radio or TV reports to keep you posted on latest updates especially since other disasters like earthquakes, storms, flooding or volcanic eruptions may be associated with debris flows.

Be small – If there is no way to escape, curl into a tight ball and protect your head the best you can.

 

AFTER A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Listen – Local radio and TV reports will keep you posted on latest updates or check with your local police or fire departments.

Don’t go there – Stay away from the area until authorities say all is clear since there could be more slides or flows.

Things to watch for:

  • flooding – usually occur after landslides or debris flows
  • damaged areas – roadways and bridges may be buried, washed-out or weakened — and water, gas & sewer lines may be broken
  • downed power lines – report them to power company

Inspect – Look for damage around home and property and watch for new landslide warning signs:

  • check foundation, chimney, garage and other structures
  • report any broken utility lines or damaged roads to local authorities
  • watch for tilted trees, poles, decks, patios, fences or walls
  • notice doors or windows stick, cracks appear, etc.

Replant – Try to fix or replant damaged ground to reduce erosion, possible flash flooding or future landslides.

Call an expert…? – Consult a professional landscaping expert for opinions and advice on landslide problems. Also call an expert out if you discover structural damage to home, chimney or other buildings.

Insurance – If your home suffers any damage, contact your insurance agent and keep all receipts for clean-up and repairs.

Some additional things to check and do…

  • Check for gas leaks (smells like rotten eggs, hear a hissing or blowing sound or see discolored plants or grass)
  • Check electrical system (watch for sparks, broken wires or the smell of hot insulation)
  • Check appliances after turning off electricity at main fuse and, if wet, unplug and let them dry out. Call a professional to check them before using.
  • Check water and sewage system and, if pipes are damaged, turn off main water valve.
  • Consider having your house tested for mold.
  • Secure valuable items or move them to another location, if possible

Emotional recovery tips –   Disasters and emergencies may cause you to leave your home and your daily routine and deal with many different emotions, but realize that a lot of this is normal human behavior. Read more

Remember… the more you prepare before disaster strikes, the better off you and your loved ones will be financially, emotionally and physically.

Sources: It’s A Disaster! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book and our “Slip Sliding Away” article in PREPARE magazine’s Sep 2013 issue

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by the recent #530slide in Washington state. Stay current on news and learn how to help the victims at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/2354/530-Slide  j & B


How to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or bombing incident

February 6, 2014

Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons for many, many decades. There are many “how-to” manuals available online and in books so unfortunately it’s very easy for bad people to make bombs and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in various shapes and sizes for use at events where many people are gathering like the Olympics, mass protests, elections, etc.

Explosive devices are very portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport, and they can be easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers.

Oftentimes terrorists pack bombs with ball bearings, screws, nails, nuts or other metal pieces to try to inflict as much carnage and chaos as possible.

Besides being vigilant  and having good situational awareness, there are some things people can do to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or incident.

BEFORE ANY TYPE OF EXPLOSION OR INCIDENT:

Be aware & watch – Sounds simple and it is. Stay current on news, alerts and threats – but don’t obsess over them – then start making a habit of being aware of your surroundings. You don’t have to be paranoid or obvious – just make a mental note of the EXITS when you go to places and watch for things that look strange or out of place especially if you walk or drive the same route day after day.

Make a kit – Make disaster supplies kits for your home, office, locker and car. Pack things like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, medicines (if needed), a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, some toiletries, tools, etc.

Have a plan – Check emergency plans for schools, day care and nursing home to find out where everyone goes if evacuated.

Report strange things – Again, be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, abandoned briefcases or backpacks and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Stay current on threats – The Department of Homeland Security www.dhs.gov and Public Safety Canada www.publicsafety.gc.ca post alerts and news about national security online. And of course read or watch local news to find out what’s going on in your area.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave – DO it!

Learn first aid – Take a basic first aid and CPR class … or join a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

DURING AN EXPLOSION:

Don’t panic… – Stay calm and don’t stop to retrieve personal items or make phone calls – get to a safe place.

Things to watch out for:
•  falling objects – if things are falling off bookshelves or from the ceiling get under a sturdy table or desk
•  flying debris – many blast injuries are caused by flying glass, metal, ball bearings and other materials
•  fires – stay below the smoke (crawl or walk like a duck)
– only use the stairs (don’t use elevators)
– check doors with back of hand before opening  (If HOT, do NOT open .. find another exit!)
•  weak structures – be careful since floors, stairs, roofs or walls might be weakened by the blast

If indoors – Stay put if building is not damaged but leave if warned of any radiation or chemical inside. Cover nose and mouth and find shelter in a building not damaged by blast and prepare to “shelter-in-place”, if necessary.

If outdoors – Cover mouth and nose with a cloth or handkerchief and take shelter in a safe building as quickly as possible!

If in a vehicle – Keep windows up, close vents, use “recirculating” air in case of airborne threats, and keep listening to radio for updates. If possible, drive away from site.

AFTER AN EXPLOSION:

If you are trapped in an area:
•  light – use a flashlight – never use matches or lighters in case there are gas leaks
•  be still – try to stay still so you won’t kick up dust
•  breathing – cover your mouth with a piece of clothing
•  make noise – tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear you (shouting may cause you to inhale a lot of dust)

Rescuing others – Untrained persons should not try to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building… wait for emergency personnel to arrive – then, if they need you, they will ask.

Avoid crowds – Be aware large crowds may be targeted for another attack.

Limited services – Cellular service and towers may get overwhelmed after an incident so realize you may have limited access. And officials may cut off mobile service around an attack site to prevent further remote detonations of explosive devices.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave due to another threat, attack or explosion – do it!

Stay away – Avoid the scene(s) as much as possible. There will be a heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels following a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature. Also realize that health and mental health and Fire/EMS resources in the affected communities may be strained or overwhelmed.

Stay current on news – Listen to updates but again, don’t obsess over an event. Extensive media coverage can be overwhelming so try to go about your daily routines and always be aware of your surroundings.

Above extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book 

Also review some tips on what to do if you receive a bomb threat or suspicious package.

Stay safe, j & B


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