Learn about Building a Safe Room (FEMA Webinar 22-May-2017 2p EDT)

May 16, 2017

FEMA’s Building Science Branch is hosting a one-hour webinar on Monday, May 22, 2017 at 2 p.m. EDT to provide consumer and construction guidance for residential and small business safe rooms.

Participants will use the 2014 publication, “FEMA P-320 Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business,” as resource to learn about background on FEMA safe rooms, new guidance, and revised construction plans.

Those interested in participating in the webinar can register online.

The following topics will be addressed:

  • assessing the need for safe rooms;
  • planning for safe rooms;
  • consumer guidance;
  • how to use the FEMA P-320 construction plans;
  • and safe room tools and resources.

Webinar participants will receive a Certificate of Completion indicating one Professional Development Hour for those who wish to self-report for professional licensure. Register for FEMA’s webinar

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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. Learn more about this sweet but deadly toxin on USFRA

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 the Family Emergency Plan section and several topics from 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
U.S. First Responders Association  

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 our Winter Storm preparedness and safety tips (PDF)

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)

 


How to protect yourself from nuclear fallout (tips about radiation, building an expedient shelter, etc)

April 13, 2013

nuclear bombNo one wants to think about a nuclear crisis – and hopefully it will never happen – but we all must accept the fact nuclear tensions are rising globally with North Korea (plus Iran, Al-Qaeda and others are seeking nukes) so we should prepare ourselves and our loved ones in the event the unthinkable strikes our soil.

For decades, movies and some in the media have portrayed a nuclear attack as a “doomsday” event implying most people would be killed on impact … and survivors would want to die once they come out of their shelters.

In reality, unless you are actually at ground zero or within a several mile radius of the blast zone (depending on the size of the nuke, of course), there is a very high probability you’ll survive as long as you…

  • limit your exposure to radiation,
  • take shelter with proper shielding, and
  • wait for the most dangerous radioactive materials to decay.

In other words, you CAN survive a nuke attack … but you MUST make an effort to learn what to do! By learning about potential threats, we are all better prepared to know how to react if something happens.

Please realize this is being written with small nuke devices in mind (like a 1-kiloton to 1-megaton device). A larger device or a nuclear war would cause more wide-spread damage but some of this data could still be helpful. These are some very basic tips on sheltering for any type of nuclear (or radiological) incident.

(Note: This topic is covered more in-depth in our IT’S A DISASTER! book, but these are some important steps that can help you and your loved ones survive a nuclear or radiological incident.)

What happens when a nuke explodes?

A nuclear blast produces a blinding light, intense heat (called thermal radiation), initial nuclear radiation, 2 explosive shock waves (blasts), mass fires, and radioactive fallout (residual nuclear radiation).

The below graphic shows the destruction of a test home by an atomic blast on March 17, 1953 at the Nevada Proving Ground. The structure was located 3,500 feet from ground zero, and the time from the first to last picture was 2.3 seconds.  It shows the force of the blast wave then the radiating energy set it on fire. (U.S. Department of Defense photo via NV DEP) See more nuke test photos in our Fire in the Sky post.

nuclear blast test destroys home at Nevada Proving Ground

Also, if a nuke is launched over our continent and explodes miles above the earth, it could create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). An EMP is a split-second silent energy burst (like a stroke of lightning) that can fry electronics connected to wires or antennas like cell phones, cars, computers, TVs, etc. Unless electronics are grounded or hardened, an area or nation could experience anything from minor interference to crippled power, transportation, banking and communications systems.

An EMP from a high-altitude nuke (where a nation or group succeeds in detonating a nuclear device carried miles into the atmosphere) could affect electronics within 1,000 miles or more as shown below. (Evidence suggests some countries and groups are working on enhanced and non-nuclear EMP weapons or e-bombs.)

high altitude emp or electromagnetic pulse threat

What is the most dangerous part of a nuclear attack?

Both the initial nuclear radiation and residual nuclear radiation (also called radioactive fallout) are extremely dangerous.

Initial nuclear radiation is penetrating invisible rays that can be lethal in high levels.

Radioactive fallout (residual nuclear radiation) is created when the fireball vaporizes everything inside it (including dirt and water). Vaporized materials mix with radioactive materials in the updraft of air forming a mushroom cloud.

Fallout can be carried by winds for hundreds of miles and begin falling to the ground within minutes of the blast or take hours, days, weeks or even months to fall. The heaviest fallout would hit ground zero and areas downwind of that, and 80% of fallout would occur within 24 hours. Most fallout looks like grey sand or gritty ash and the radiation given off cannot be seen, smelled, tasted or felt which is why it is so dangerous. But as the materials decay or spread out radiation levels will drop.

More about radiation

Types of radiation – Nuclear radiation has 3 main types of radiation…

  • alpha – can be shielded by a sheet of paper or by human skin. If alpha particles are inhaled, ingested, or enter body through a cut, they can cause damage to tissues and cells.
  • beta – can be stopped by skin or a thicker shield (like wood). Beta particles can cause serious damage to internal organs if ingested or inhaled, and could cause eye damage or possible skin burns.
  • gamma – most dangerous since gamma rays can penetrate the entire body and cause cell damage throughout your organs, blood and bones. Since radiation does not stimulate nerve cells you may not feel anything while your body absorbs it. Exposure to high levels of gamma rays can lead to radiation sickness or death, which is why it is critical to seek shelter from fallout in a facility with thick shielding!

Radiation detection devices – You cannot see, smell, taste or feel radiation, but special instruments can detect even the smallest levels of radiation. Since it may take days or weeks before First Responders could get to you, consider having these devices handy during a crisis or attack since they could save your life.

survey meter radiation detection device

 

   survey meter – measures rate of exposure or intensity of radiation at that specific location if you stayed there for an hour … like a speedometer in a car (cost: $300-$1,000+)

dosimeter radiation detection devicedosimeter – a pen-like device you can wear that measures total dose or accumulated exposure to radiation as you move around (needs a charger too). Dosimeters cost about $45-$65+ each and some dealers offer 3 dosimeters + a charger for about $240 or so.

Kearny Fallout Meter or KFM kit

 

  KFM kit – (Kearny Fallout Meter) measures radiation more accurately than most instruments since it’s charged electrostatically. Find plans online or available as a low-cost kit ($40-$75). And it’s a great science project for kids.

NukAlert radiation detection device

NukAlert – a patented personal radiation meter, monitor and alarm small enough to fit on a key chain. The unit warns you with chirping sounds if it detects radiation. (cost: $145 – $160)

RADsticker measures radiation levels

 

    RADsticker – postage stamp sized card (cost: $2-$5 ea)

Measuring radiation – Radiation was measured in units called roentgens (pronounced “rent-gens” and abbreviated as “R”) … or “rads” or “rem”. An EPA document called “Planning Guidance for Response to A Nuclear Detonation 2nd Edition June 2010” explains … 1 R (exposure in air) ≅ 1 rad (absorbed dose) ≅ 1 rem (whole-body dose). Although many measuring devices and older documentation use R and rem, officials and the media now use sievert (Sv) which is the System International or SI unit of measurement of radiation. The formula to convert sieverts to rems is quite simple … 1 Sv = 100 R (rem).

How many rads are bad? – High doses of radiation in a short span of time can cause radiation sickness or even death, but if that high dose is spread out over a long period of time, it’s not as bad.

According to FEMA, an adult could tolerate and recover from an exposure to 150R (1.5 Sv) over a week or 300R (3 Sv) over a 4-month period. But 300R (3 Sv) over a week could cause sickness or possibly death. Exposure to 30R (0.3 Sv) to 70R (0.7 Sv) over a week may cause minor sickness, but a full recovery would be expected. But radioactive fallout decays rapidly so staying in a shelter with proper shielding is critical!

The “seven-ten” rule – For every sevenfold increase in time after the initial blast, there is a tenfold decrease in the radiation rate. For example, a 500 rad level can drop to 50R in just 7 hours and down to 5R after 2 days (49 hours). In other words, if you have shelter with good shielding and stay put for even just 7 hours … you’ve really increased your chances of survival. Your detection devices, emergency radio or cell phone [if the last 2 are working, that is] can assist you in knowing when it’s safe to come out.

So how do I protect myself and my family?

Basic shelter requirements – Whether you build a shelter in advance or throw together an expedient last-minute shelter during a crisis, the area should protect you from radiation and support you for at least 2 weeks. Some basic requirements for a fallout shelter include …

  • shielding
  • ventilation
  • water and food
  • sanitation and first aid products
  • radiation monitoring devices, KI (potassium iodide), radio, weapons, tools, etc

Reduce exposure – Protect yourself from radioactive fallout with …

  • distance – the more distance between you and fallout particles, the better
  • shielding – heavy, dense materials (like thick walls, earth, concrete, bricks, water and books) between you and fallout is best. Stay indoors or below ground. (Taking shelter in a basement or a facility below ground reduces exposure by 90%. Less than 4 inches of soil or earth can reduce the penetration of dangerous gamma rays by half.)
  • time – most fallout loses its strength quickly. The more time that passes after the attack, the lower the danger.

Indoor shelter locations – If you don’t have a fallout shelter, these options could provide protection from dangerous radiation by using proper shielding materials.

  • basement – find the corner that is most below ground level (the further underground the better)
  • 1-story home / condo / apartment – if no underground facility, find a spot in center of home away from windows
  • trailer home – find sturdier shelter if possible (like a basement or brick or concrete building)
  • multi-story building or high-rise – go to center of the middle section of building (above 9th floor if possible). Note: if rooftop of a building next to you is on that same floor, move one floor up or down since radioactive fallout would accumulate on rooftops. Avoid first floor (if possible) since fallout will pile up on ground outside.

Make an expedient shelter – Some very basic ways to build an expedient last-minute shelter in your home, apartment or workplace to help protect you from dangerous radiation include…

  • Set up a large, sturdy workbench or table in location you’ve chosen. If no table, make one by putting doors on top of boxes, appliances or furniture.
  • Put as much shielding (e.g. furniture, file cabinets, appliances, boxes or pillowcases filled with dirt or sand, boxes of food, water or books, concrete blocks, bricks, etc.) all around sides and on top of table, but don’t put too much weight on tabletop or it could collapse. Add reinforcing supports, if needed.
  • Leave a crawl space so everyone can get inside and block opening with shielding materials.
  • Leave 2 small air spaces for ventilation (about 4-6″ each) – one low at one end and one high at other end. (This allows for better airflow since warm air rises.)
  • Have water, radiation detection devices, KI, battery operated radio, food and sanitation supplies in case you have to shelter in place for days or weeks.

build an expedient shelter for protection from radioactive fallout

In summary, those within the blast zone of Ground Zero (depending on the size of the nuke) won’t make it .. BUT .. if you are a few miles outside the zone your chances of surviving it are high but you MUST have detection devices to monitor levels of radiation and a plan to stay sheltered for at least 48 hours or up to a few weeks. First Responders will have to wait for the deadly fallout to decay before they enter a hot zone so the more you prepare, the better your odds of surviving a terrorist nuke.

As mentioned earlier, our 266-page IT’S A DISASTER! book (or ebook) explains more about nuclear incidents and many other disasters and basic first aid … and we discount our $14.99 book down to $4.50 US each + s&h (on 10 or more copies). Plus we customize our products for free!

Learn more at www.itsadisaster.net or call Fedhealth at 1-888-999-4325 (7a-4p Pacific M–F) for more information.

Stay safe, j & B


Dealing with a crappy situation (sanitation tips during an emergency or disaster)

February 20, 2013

carnival trash cans for sanitationLast week the media reported ad nauseum about the stranded Carnival cruise ship that caused thousands of passengers to endure several days with little to no power or heat, no running water and very few working toilets.

Passengers said Triumph’s staff were handing out “poop bags” and telling people to “pee in the showers”.

Yes, it was a nasty situation for the folks stuck on the “floating petri dish”, but some of the headlines and bylines on photos ranged from dramatic to comical.

One described “trash cans and sinks of human waste, feces-smeared walls and mushy floors inside the ‘Hunger Games-like’ Carnival cruise ship”. Another was simply called “Holy Ship!”

red bags for sanitationAnd the UK’s Daily Mail described this red bag photo …

“Disgust: Guests were forced to defecate into plastic bags and place them outside their rooms after toilets on board the Triumph became blocked following the electrical failure.”

Hmm … well, we guess the editor who was appalled by the thought of being “forced” to “defecate into plastic bags” has never been in a disaster situation where there is no water, toilets or power. And he/she probably has never been camping in the backcountry where you use a bag or just aim for a hole in the ground (and watch out for creepy crawlies, wild critters and poisonous plants when squatting in the wild.)

But anyway … this crappy situation seemed like a great reason to dust off and post some poop tips from our IT’S A DISASTER! book.

Sanitation Facts

The following statistics came from the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council.

Did you know…

2.6 billion people – or about 40% of the world’s population – do not have access to basic sanitation?!

one gram (0.035 oz) of human feces can contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts, and 100 parasite eggs?!

… more than 5,000 children die every day from diarrhea making it one of the biggest killers of children under five worldwide accounting for 17% of deaths in this age-group.

…sanitation and hygiene could also prevent most of the 130 million annual cases worldwide of serious worm infestation. This matters since worms can divert up to one-third of the food a child consumes, and malnutrition is at the root of 50% of childhood illness.

Sanitation Tips

In disaster situations, plumbing may not be usable due to broken sewer or water lines, flooding, or freezing of the system. To avoid the spread of disease, it is critical that human waste be handled in a sanitary manner!

If toilet okay but lines are not…

If water or sewer lines are damaged but toilet is still intact, you should line the toilet bowl with a plastic bag to collect waste… but DO NOT flush the toilet!! After use, add a small amount of disinfectant to bag, remove and seal bag (with a twist tie if reusing), and place bag in a tightly covered container away from people to reduce smell.

If toilet is unusable…

If toilet is destroyed, a plastic bag in a bucket may be substituted. Some companies make plastic buckets with a seat … or you could use the toilet seat from a commode and lay it on top of a bucket for a more comfortable experience. After use, add a small amount of disinfectant to the bag, and seal or cover bucket. Tip: Placing the bucket inside a plastic crate can help make it more stable.

Disinfectants – easy and effective for home use in Sanitation of Human Waste.

Chlorine Bleach – If water is available, a solution of 1 part liquid household bleach to 10 parts water is best. DO NOT use dry bleach since it can burn you, corrode or dissolve things so not safe for this kind of use.

Calcium hypochlorite – (e.g. HTH, etc.) Available in swimming pool supply or hardware stores and several large discount stores. It can be used in solution by mixing, then storing. Follow directions on the package.

Portable toilet chemicals – These come in both liquid and dry formulas and are available at recreational vehicle (RV) supply stores. Use according to package directions. These chemicals are designed especially for toilets that are not connected to sewer lines.

Powdered, chlorinated lime – Available at some building supply stores. It can be used dry and be sure to get chlorinated lime – not quick lime.

Some other alternatives to use in emergency potties are kitty litter or sawdust. There are also several types of camping toilets and portable toilets that range from fairly low dollars to hundreds of dollars.

Make sure toilet is near the air-exhaust end of the shelter and keep it tightly covered when not in use. Cover with a plastic bag too to keep bugs out and help reduce smell a bit. And consider hanging a sheet or blanket in toilet area for some privacy, if possible.

Also (if possible) consider digging a waste-disposal pit about 3 feet downwind from your shelter if hunkered down for an extended period of time.

Puking may also be an issue during a long-term shelter-in-place situation without power. Nerves, anxiety, a change in diet, and the sight and stench of pee, poop and puke may make others throw up. Having plastic bags, placed throughout a shelter, are the best means to catch puke and keep it off the floor. Buckets, pots, or a newspaper folded into a cone also work.

Some sanitation items for kits…

  • Disinfectant for human waste (see above)
  • Bottles of household chlorine bleach (regular scent)
  • Personal hygiene items (toothbrushes, toothpaste or baking soda, brush, comb, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, etc.)
  • Plastic garbage bags with twist ties and small plastic grocery bags
  • Plastic bucket with tight lid (several would be wise esp. if you can use one for poop and one for pee – see below)
  • Soap, liquid detergent, hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol), moist towelettes or sanitizing wipes, hydrogen peroxide, etc.
  • Toilet paper and baby wipes
  • Paper towels, dish towels, rags, etc.
  • Feminine supplies (tampons, pads, etc.)
  • Diapers (infant, toddler and adult sizes if needed)
  • Disposable gloves
  • Wash cloths, hand and bath towels
  • Small shovel

PHLUSH Twin No Mix poop pee buckets for sanitationPublic Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human, or PHLUSH (an all-volunteer advocacy group based in Portland, Oregon) has a great idea for dealing with sanitation. Use 2 separate buckets (one for pee and one for poop) as explained in their “DIY Christchurch Twin” post.  Or download PHLUSH’s 2-page PDF with more information and instructions about using the 2 bucket system.

Also consider packing all your sanitation items and supplies inside your clean bucket so it’s easy to take with you during an evacuation.

Reduce the spread of germs

Germs and diseases can create major problems and illness in confined quarters so try to reduce the spread of germs and infectious diseases…

  • Wash hands often using soap and water or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol in it) to reduce the spread of germs. But keep in mind sanitizers don’t work against some bugs so it’s best to wash up, if possible.

handwashing tips

  • Try to avoid exposure to others’ bodily fluids like blood, pee, poop, spittle, etc.
  • Sick people should cover mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, wash hands often, and wear a face mask around others (if very ill).
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered until healed.
  • Clean counters, doorknobs, fixtures, linens, etc. often with a bleach solution.
  • If possible, don’t share silverware, razors, towels, or bedding and wash objects with soap and hot water.

Again these are just some basic things to plan for dealing with human waste and cooties during shelter-in-place situations so there are other items to consider. Add your thoughts or suggestions in the comments below. Stay safe, j & B


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